"They reap not where they laboured,
We reap what they have sown.
Our harvest may be garnered,
By ages yet unknown"
These inspirational lines from the old school hymn capture both the spirit and devotion with which Rohan Madena served Trinity and the TCKOBA. Not for him the glaring spotlight; he worked silently and diligently. The current image of the TCKOBA Secretarit is the legacy of his labour. But the void he has left behind will be hard to fill, for family, his large circle of friends and the OBA.
My earliest acquaintance with Rohan and his elder brother Ana was 57 years ago, when they joined Trinity, Ana into Squealery and Rohan into the Junior School. They made an immediate impression with their prowess at swimming and hockey imbibed at STC, Gurutalawa.
Unfortunately, their love for the controversial aphrodisiac, Durian Fruits, did not endear them to all the Boarders! Rohan with typical modesty would vehemently pronounce that his career at TCK was anything but spectacular not withstanding the fact that he represented the School at Rugby under legends such as Denzil Kobbekaduwa and Eric Roles, winning his Colours. An injury at Rugby deprived him of his Hockey Colours, having played for the school under Lucky Perera.
My own association with Ana and Rohan went beyond the Boarding into the school holidays. His father was posted to my home town as the DRO. I was the typical country yokel, the 'Gamaya'. The Madena brothers had no hesitation in sharing their new Raleigh Sports bikes with me and sharing their mother's bountiful lunches. They in turn enjoyed my invitations to join in swimming in the 'Maha Ela' by the 'Wekanda', with an overhanging mango branch serving as the 'diving board', and my Mum's 'Polos Ambula' at lunch. But the innocence of adolescence was not to last for ever. Ana, Rohan and I went our different ways, the Madena's into planting and I to Med School.
No greater tribute to Rohan's career as a planter could be paid than the presence and massive outpouring of grief at the funeral by both his contemporaries and his protégés, groomed by him to be eminent members of the planting profession. His love for his chosen profession was so sincere and strong that he was able to resist the temptations of privilege, lucre and comfort offered by a contemporary, who having reached dizzy political heights offered these on a platter. He steadfastly stuck to the life and labour he had chosen.
His early retirement was much lamented, but in a sense, not unexpected. He had achieved the divine bliss of contentment in his Saviour, he had chosen to adopt in early adulthood. He chose to serve his Master and continued to be a faithful servant of his Lord at St. Paul's Church Kandy. His multiple acts of charity were known to only a few, for in the words of the Scriptures, he did not allow his 'left hand to know what the right hand doeth'.
When the TCKOBA Secretariat was created in July 2002, Rohan was the obvious choice to be its Manager and how well he served, silently and diligently. He had to deal with a myriad of personalities, from cantankerous old boys and the enthusiastic seeking tickets for the Bradby to timid school leavers seeking guidance in preparing for their first interview of employment. His quiet diplomacy ensured that none left unhappy.
For three years it was my privilege to work with Rohan. His restraint, common sense, wise counsel and expansive knowledge of men and mice made my task, so much easier at the Secretariat in what were difficult and controversial times for both TCK and the OBA. It was also my tragedy that having shared so many hours of good cheer and camaraderie, I had to share his final, painful hours, albeit that he bore them bravely.
Yet, I feel blessed that destiny provided me with three happy years with this simple, generous and sincere pal. I am grateful and will treasure the memories of those hours with Rohan. The Secretariat however, will never be the same for me.
I conclude this tribute, in the fervent hope that Yvonne, Denham, Sonali, Rochelle, Alaine and the kids, his sisters and in-laws will take comfort, in the painful days ahead, in the knowledge that all of us are there to bear the cross with you.
Dr. Neil Halpe
You were here one day and gone the next
One short year ago I had a kind, compassionate and lovely neice. Whenever I thought of her I always recalled the following lines from a poem by Lord Byron –
“She walks in beauty like the night
of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright;
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:…
Yes, one moment she was there young , happy and bright and the next she was gone. She might have had a premonition of her sudden departure for she had gathered almost all her relatives, uncles and aunts and cousins first and second from all over the place and those who were spread around the world, she telephoned. I was one of them. It was the most loving conversation I ever had with her.
She apologized for any negligence over the years and invited me to Sri Lanka to live with her, promising to look after me. The second day after the call she departed this world forever. Perhaps, Paradise needed an Angel and she answered the call. Just like Thomas Nashe’s Words:
“Adieu, farewell, earth’s Bliss,
This world uncertain is;
Fond are life’s lustful joys’
Death proves them all but toys”
Beauty is but a flower,
Which wrinkles, will devour’
Brightness falls from the air,
Queens have died young and fair.
And she flew away leaving a wonderful life – an adoring family – husband, two children – daughter and son, heart-broken mother, sister and brother. I know in my grieving heart that life was wonderful and you were the happiest of the lot.
To quote John Dryden:
All human things are subject to decay,
And, when Fate summons Monarchs must obey”
But the question is, ‘Why summoning seems to be so unfair! Sandhya was still young and a life of happiness and ecstasy was before her when she was snatched away.
I shall mourn for you dearest Sandhya until we meet again. I’m sure you will meet me at the Gates of Paradise or Heaven as some call it when my time is served. In your last telephone call, you apologized for neglecting me and promised to contact me every week, but you departed this Earth the very next day. And the manner in which you left, one can never come to terms with. We are all heart-broken and weep for you.
May we meet again and again during the passage of our time till we attain the blissful state of Niravana.
Until then, let me say goodbye my dearest Sandhya.
A tribute to a father on his 100th birth anniversary
Hector F. C. Fernando
He was born on November 26, 1910, and left us on June 17, 1962. It was too soon. I was just 16 and I had two brothers who were younger, and this was a time in our life when we would have really liked a father to be around. Both my sisters had left school, and one had just got into university, and all five of us found ourselves making huge adjustments to meet a situation that we had not imagined in our wildest dreams. But it was our mother who was devastated by the loss of a devoted husband. A teacher who never took any leave, she could not get back to work for over four weeks. Such was the effect of this loss.
My father and his four brothers attended S. Thomas’ College, Mt Lavinia. His love for Physics and optics in particular, he attributed to his beloved teacher Dr. R.L.Haymen, who went on to become the founder headmaster of S. Thomas’ Gurutalawa.
My father was the first Ceylonese to qualify as an optician in Britain. He returned to Sri Lanka just before the second world war broke out. Until then this was a profession which was dominated by British nationals. Many young men who wished to be trained in the field of optometry, were apprenticed under him and went on to become big names in their chosen field. He never considered himself a businessman and refused to set up his own optical business. He considered himself a professional and was proud of his profession. Kindness and skill, care and attention marked his service to his clients.
He established the Ceylon Optometrists Association, and became its founder president. The main purpose of this association was to further the professionalism and professional standards of those in this field of work. The Association, I understand, continues this good work even today.
When my youngest brother, Gihan (GAF), as a boy of six years, was interviewed by Canon R.S.De Saram, the Warden, S. Thomas’ College Mt. Lavinia, prior to his admission to the College, and when he was asked what his father’s profession was, had replied, ‘He is a glass maker’. The Warden like many other members of the community had got his ’glasses’ from his one time student, HFC, and knew what the boy was talking about. My father found this most amusing and related this to many friends and relatives. He knew that to many people he was indeed, simply a ‘glass maker’!
He was a wonderful father, who set high standards for us to follow. Not once had he ever raised his hand against any of his children. Even when it came to simple things like how one dressed he insisted on standards. I had once slackened my tie knot and unbuttoned the collar button, (I was only 15), he saw me and he told us the story of how he had done this at school (those were days when senior boys wore tie to school), and his teacher, who also taught me English, V.P. Cooke, had made him stand in front of the class and told the other students, “Look at this chap, he is neither a loafer nor a gentleman’. The lesson was learnt.
Next to his profession his other love was the YMCA. He was a loyal member of the Colombo
ssociation, and many were the occasions when we as a family trooped into the YMCA building for functions involving the family. He took a special interest, in the Y’s Men’s Club of the Colombo YMCA. This was the service arm of the ‘Y’. At the time of his death he was serving his fourth term as President. He was held in high esteem by all those with whom he associated, and I can do no better than to quote from an appreciation written by the then General Secretary of the Colombo YMCA Lennie Wijesinghe, soon after his death.
“Hector is dead and with his death we of the Association have lost a loyal Active Member and a sincere friend. Our Y’s Men’s Club has suffered even a greater loss for he was its President. It was under his leadership that the Club achieved its present status in Y’ sdom. He carried himself with dignity wherever he went. It was not a cold dignity but one which was surrounded by the inimitable charm of a friendly personality. Indeed, this was one remarkable characteristic of the man. Nobody meeting him for the first time could think of him as a stranger.
It would be correct to say that in such circumstances one was more inclined to look upon him as a dear friend. Such was the impelling force of the love that throbbed in him. Hector never gave himself airs. Simplicity was the very essence of his nature. And yet it was not of the ordinary variety, rather was it one springing from the depths of a kindly disposition. Nor was his spirit of service limited. It reached out to others wherever the need arose.”
May his soul rest in peace