Tribute: Ranji Mahindapala – the perfectionist | Sunday Observer

Tribute: Ranji Mahindapala – the perfectionist

5 June, 2021

My mum’s sister, Aunty Ranji (89) passed away on May 29 after a brief stay in hospital. The burial took place at Kanatte the same day, according to her wishes.

Coming from a family of four girls (she was the eldest) she was a role model for all of us. My grandparents the Anthonypillais’ were very conservative and down-to-earth people. My grandfather, Paul, was an entomologist at the MRI and our ambition was to live up to his ideal standards. He was a man of intellect and maintained a very simple laid-back lifestyle .

Aunty Ranji was more of a “go-getting” type of person and her natural independent nature saw her flourishing as a young and ambitious lady. She became the head girl at Wolfendhal Girls School. If I remember correct, she was also the games captain. When she joined the work force she was recruited as secretary to Vernon Abeysekera who was the head of Radio Ceylon at the time. Later she worked for B. Mahadeva at the Ceylon Milk Board.

She migrated to Australia and joined the Public Service of the State of Victoria in the seventies. To us Aunty Ranji was like a superstar in all her grace, with meticulously draped sarees, matching footwear, manicured nails, a bright pottu and the whole works. She exuded an aristocratic air which is associated with those who come from Manipay. She was blessed with a flashy smile which caught one’s instant attention. She was very particular about one’s accent and her command of the English language made her the leading light even in the pool of Australian Secretaries with whom she worked in Melbourne, Australia.

She never stopped laughing at the Australian accent which stumbled her at first. She was married to H. L. D. Mahindapala, the veteran journalist.

My first memories of her are from the times she would drop in after work at my grandparents house where I used to stay after school till dad took me home after he returned from work.

Though my memories as a little 5-6- year old are faint what still remains vividly in my mind is the way she draped her sarees and how well- groomed and stylish she was.

She carried herself very well, full of poise and class. I can recall even now how daintily and elegantly she did even little things such as holding her cup of tea that my grandma served. She was a lady to her fingertips.

My next memory is visiting her sprawling house somewhere in Edmonton Gardens I think. Later in the mid- 2000s I spent a few nights at her Glen Waverly residence In Melbourne. The furniture, the carpets, the knick-knacks were arranged tastefully. Everything was in its proper place. Everything had the signature of the lady of the house.

In the Melbourne circles she is remembered as an outstanding cook of Jaffna food. It was difficult to please her with the usual curry and rice. She had to give it her special touch which was appreciated hugely by Melburnians living nostalgically miles away from Jaffna. Others who followed her recipe still could not reproduce her flavour. She alone had that magic touch. Besides, she was a tireless worker. Throwing parties in Melbourne without the help of domestics was not easy.

But she would slave during the week-end to entertain her friends and visitors. She was a lovely hostess. She was a perfectionist.

She was a voracious reader with an insatiable desire for books, magazines, and other reading materials.

Aunty Ranji was also a TV addict and as she grew older (a term I can use freely in her absence now) she would spend a lot of time watching movie classics and quality sitcoms .

Aunty Ranji was never shy to voice an opinion but though you don’t want be at the receiving end of her barbs, we all got used to it knowing she does not hold things in her heart for long.

She was stickler for detail and be it the most insignificant item in the household or the most important one nothing will be tolerated if it did not fit her sense of interior decor and colour combinations.

That was Ranji Mahindapala at her best.

When it came to helping aunty was very lavish in her benevolence. All our families are beneficiaries of her generosity.

I don’t think she ever thought twice when it came to helping family. Her family, specially her sisters, meant a great deal to her. She would spend hours on the phone with her sisters even from distant Melbourne. One of the biggest items in the family budget was the phone bill.

These are some of thoughts on a great personality we all had the privilege of knowing at very close quarters. Aunty Ranji and my mum now share the same resting place and I am sure their long conversations would have already begun. Both my mum and Aunt Ranji were very, very close to their parents and they will now have the opportunity of being united once again.

Aunty Ranji, rest well. You are going to be remembered for a long time by your loving husband Mahinda, surviving sisters, nephews, their spouses, their kids and your numerous friends .

Love you! Gonna miss you calling my name in that very aristocratically deep voice, the perfectly stressed syllables and that dashing smile you held till the very last.

God bless you and may your soul rest in peace.

Kennedy Michael