and others’ lives
A Book of Days-by Deshabandu Edith
M.G. Fernando. Reviewed by Aditha Dissanayake
On February 12, 1977, passengers on Singapore
International Airlines Flight No. SQ 765 heard the flute-like voice
of the air hostess in the cabin say, "Fasten your seat belts
we are about to land at the Katunayake International Airport."
Sri Lankan passengers peeped nostalgically through the windows at
the lush green vista of coconut palms below them. "Home at
last," exclaimed one passenger to his wife beside him. "How
nice to be back." But he was never to step on the green green
grass of home again. Ten minutes later, J.L.M. Fernando died on
manner of his death," writes his wife Deshabandu Edith Fernando,
in her book titled 'A Book of Days' "was paradoxically the
most dramatic event of his life. For during his biblical span of
three score years and ten in spite of his many-faced distinctions,
he chose the wing rather than the centre of the stage, the shadows
rather than the sunlight, the pathways of peace rather than the
highroad of controversy."
her book Edith focuses on the "Quality, diversity and the originality"
of families that hailed from Moratuwa and Panadura, Fernando-Dias
and De Mel. When asked if she is not making an understatement when
she writes, "Our family was neither rich nor famous. Nothing
very thrilling happened to us. Minor crisis and moderate pleasures.
We read about others, whose names make news, people who are doing
important things," Edith says, "No. It is not an understatement.
were higher, richer people than us. We were simple folk.”
Yet her husband J.L.M. Fernando was the first chairman of the Air
Ceylon Corporation in 1951, and Edith herself, is the founder of
the Pegasus Reef Hotel where she introduced the service charge of
ten percent to the bill and the rule that the tip left by the guest
could be shared among all the employees. Recalling the situation
in the hotel industry before 1971, Edith writes, "The visitor
seated in the hotel lobby simply clapped his hands and shouted "boy"
and a waiter would sidle up with a gin and tonic...and it was not
something any young person looked forward to. A service charge was
unknown and tips were never shared.
who received them considered them part of the perks of the job.
Today the service charge has come to stay and the law holds that
this does not form a part of the turnover of a company."
is also a vexillologist. "Some people collect stamps. I'm interested
in flags," says Edith. With the aim of publicizing Sri Lanka's
vexillological heritage she has published a book titled "Lanka
Flags, Unique Memorials of Heraldry".
philosophy on life is gathered in her volume of family history.
She writes, "It is a fruitless undertaking to attempt to evaluate
the comparative value of human accomplishments. It does seem obvious
however that some of the achievements which rate high in news value
maybe scaled pretty low by God's standards.
first men to land on the moon would have demonstrated a high degree
of courage and physical stamina, but they will not necessarily have
added much to the sum total of human happiness." Deshabandu
Edith Fernando's books are available at 185/2A, Dharmapala Mawatha,