Sunday, June 16, 2024

“Mother never saw me play cricket”

Sanath Jayasuriya’s tribute to his beloved mother

by damith
June 9, 2024 1:16 am 0 comment 679 views

‘Mother’ “Amma” in many Asian languages) is the most written word in the world in any language. The mother of the richest man and the poorest man in the world are the same. There is no substitute for this noble character who not only shows unconditional love and kindness but also makes a lot of sacrifices for their children.

No matter how much respect a child has for a father, it is all subordinate to the mother. A father rarely punishes an overgrown child, but for a mother, their age is irrelevant to punishing their children. She is a giant shadow cast over children’s lives. There is no other sorrow and pain that one cannot bear than losing one’s mother.

Sanath Jayasuriya, the breadwinner of the family, must have felt a similar sadness after the death of Brida Jayasuriya. This mother of mercy passed away the day before yesterday, leaving behind such sorrow for the two brothers Chandana and Sanath. We went to Sanath Jayasuriya’s ancestral home in Mahamaya Mawatha, Kotuwegoda, Matara to learn more about Brida Jayasuriya, who gave the nation a world-class cricket star.

“Our mother is a wonderful character. She lived a very simple life. Amma did not know much about cricket. When we were children, we were always told to pass O/ Level and do well in school to get a good job. Amma was hoping for that. Then I turned to cricket and Amma was a little afraid of that. My mother was worried about what would happen to my future if sports disrupted my studies. That’s why one day, Amma met my school principal G.L Galappatti (former principal of St. Servatius College). Galappatti assured my mother that I’m playing well and to let me continue with cricket.”

His cricket career was greatly encouraged by Lionel Wagasinghe, principal and coach of St. Servatius Matara. It was he who told Sanath’s parents about their son’s cricketing prowess and mentored him to plan and guide his cricketing future.

My mother was afraid that I would flunk out and she couldn’t believe it when I passed the O/ Levels because I was always playing cricket. The other thing is that Amma has no understanding and knowledge about cricket. Amma came to know about my cricket from the villagers. At that time, when I got out in a school match, my mother would get the details from the villagers. Amma would ask: “What are they saying son? They are upset that you got out by hitting the ball too high”.

Matches

On the one hand, it was good for me that my mother did not know much about cricket. Mother never came to watch the matches. My brother and father always came, but even then Amma gave them instructions to let me play in peace, like: “Don’t talk too much. Don’t be seen. Stand aside somewhere where Sanath can’t see you”. So my brother and father came to see me play but I didn’t see them. I also didn’t like them standing in a place where I could see them while I was playing.

Even though cricket lovers from all over the world gathered to witness the lightning-fast batting attack of this master blaster who conquered the international cricket field, this didn’t matter much to Brida Jayasuriya; for her, Sanath was only her beloved little son.

“I think my mother must have been happy the day I was selected for the Sri Lanka Under-19 team but she didn’t tell anything about it. It was the same when playing for the Sri Lankan team. Besides, Amma never came to watch a match and she didn’t know much about what I was doing. She catches up a little bit on TV only when someone tells her about a match.

Apart from that, almost no one came to the ground to watch me play. I have taken my mother on several trips abroad. Even so, I am never asked about my cricket. It was really good for me. No unnecessary pressure. Our mother was very strict. Not like others. Both my brother and I were raised like that. We always got strict warnings. She’s up-front. Not just for me, but for anyone. That is her nature. I’m also like that and some don’t like it.”

The world came to know about Sanath Jayasuriya in the 1996 World Cup after he won the ‘Man of the Tournament’ award. Then he set a world batting record along with Roshan Mahanama at the R. Premadasa International Stadium in 1997. He played his best Test innings and scored 340 runs.

“Amma must have been happy. But she didn’t show it much. She didn’t show off for being ‘Sanath Jayasuriya’s mother’. I’m like that too. I live a very simple life. That is the best thing I have ever seen in my mother. From then until she got sick, she used to go to the market on foot”.

Although he was known as Sanath to the villagers, he became a popular figure all over the world with the name Jayasuriya. Even today, if a Sri Lankan anywhere in the world addresses him by the name ‘Sanath’, it is surely a person from the school or village that he knows well since childhood. No matter how outsiders addressed him, his mother had a thousand names to call her youngest son.

Naughtiest

“Amma had many names for me. Sometimes she calls me a Yaka and sometimes Puthey. Since I was the naughtiest member of the family, who never listens, she was always kept an eye on me.’

“Amma was the biggest motivation in our family. Although my father was there, my mother looked after everything. Mother did those things with amazing dedication, energy and hard work. And she was someone who worked very fast. Mom just wanted to see me and my brother in a good place and she always wanted to give us the best. Our family struggled to survive. We even made and sold hoppers from our grandmother’s house. Mother worked in Laksala but she quit her job and even went to work as a housekeeper in the Middle East because we were not doing too well. So the role of mother went beyond the role of father in our family.”

Sanath’s father, Dunstan Jayasuriya, was working as an inspector at the Local Government Ministry at that time. The job was not enough for the education and other activities of his two sons. Therefore, the Jayasuriya family strongly felt the need for additional income.

“Father passed away in 2020. After that, mother was there for everything”.

Brida Jayasuriya is a woman who is loved and respected by her neighbours. Sanath also said that his mother, who was addressed by everyone in the village as ‘Brida Aunty’, was strongly religious.

The people of the village love our mother very much. And mother lived a good life. She did a lot of good work. She understood Buddhist philosophy very well. The temple is on the other side of the wall of our house. (Kotuvegoda Jayasumanaramaya). Amma took Sil every Poya Day. She always contributed to the work of the temple. My mother has been like that since we were little. She got along well with everyone, regardless of race or religion. Our village was made of Sinhala Buddhists and Muslims. They loved our mother very much and everyone here calls her ‘Brida akka.’

Brida Jayasuriya, who lived a pious life associated with the Jayasumanarama Temple, regularly performed Bodhi poojas for her children.

“Amma was ill during her last three years. I watched over her a lot. My brother also made a big commitment for my mother. When mother’s illness started, we both took her to Colombo and gave her the best treatment we could. This was our duty since our mother made great sacrifices for us. We tried hard to keep her happy. She must have passed away happily.

Actually I was not there that day. I was in the US with the Sri Lankan team for the Twenty20 World Cup. My brother, his wife, and their two daughters stayed with Amma and took good care of her. Mother will be born in a good place. Thanks to her for the life she gave us. Mother must have been happy bringing us into the world and bequeathing me to sports,” says Sanath.

Chandana is the eldest child of the Jayasuriya family. He works at the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. His wife, A.H. Dammini, is a teacher at Rahula College. The elder daughter is also a teacher and the younger daughter is expecting university admission. They made a lot of sacrifices for Brida Jayasuriya during her last days. Chandana told us that his mother had leadership qualities in all aspects.

Leader

“Our mother was a leader. Amma was very good at finding everything and working flawlessly. As a low-income family, my mother worked with dedication to bring us to a bigger place, living on my father’s salary. Mother is closer to my brother rather than me. They are like friends sometimes.

What my mother said my brother did. And whenever my brother was depressed, mother was there for him. But not if you watch cricket matches. If someone tells me that my brother is playing well, I watch a little bit of the game on TV.

Since that time, for the sake of Malli’s cricket achievements, mother has always gone to the temple regardless of sun and rain, offered a Bodhi pooja and prayed that Malli’s heart would be strong.

Brida Jayasuriya, who gave birth to a world-beating cricketer, was 84 years old when she passed away. Her last rites were recently performed at the Matara Public Cemetery.

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