Seeya, my friend, playmate and confidant
P.H. Nonis
My grandfather’s 25th death anniversary fell this year. In reality he was more than my Seeya. He was my playmate, friend, teacher and confidante.
How does one best remember someone who had a strong influence on one’s life? While one’s achievements are important, what makes one more special is the influence one had on those around him. Seeya knew many people from all walks of life and left a lasting impression on everyone he associated with. His achievements in the fields of education and cricket were many. His students still remember him with gratitude and fondness. He has been a mentor to many of them. I am privileged to have been able to call him my Seeya.

Seeya had to wait many years to be a grandfather and he had been very excited when my mother had told him that she was pregnant. When I was born, Mama had asked him, “Are you disappointed that it is a girl?” to which he had promptly replied “I am not at all disappointed”. As I grew up in our home next to that of Aachchi and Seeya I was often with them. I recall writing my first ‘letter’ to Seeya when I was three years old, which was put in his letter box. It was a piece of paper with scribbles and a few drawings. However, he did not ridicule me but ‘read’ my letter very seriously!

I also had a vivid imagination as a child and many were the times I searched for fairies in his garden. He did not stand in my way or laugh at my stories about the fairies that I claimed to have seen! It was Seeya who kept me on his lap and taught me to read the clock very patiently. He never wanted to hear me cry and when this did happen he used to send my grandmother to our home who in turn scolded my mother for disciplining me!

As a devout Christian, he upheld high values and principles. As a former Principal of Wesley College and Kingwood College and also as the Cricket Captain of the former school, Seeya associated with people who were from the cream of society. He walked with kings but did not lose the common touch. He was humble at all times. My grandfather was soft spoken and believed in justice. When he was faced with difficult times as a school principal, he stood strong amidst the storm.

My father often recalls stories about Seeya. On one occasion, a parent had threatened to take his son out of school if the latter was not included in the cricket team, but my grand-father had been firm. The parent eventually took his son out of school. He did not tolerate any politics be it in school or in his day to day life. One day, a school boy had played an ‘April Fools’ day prank on his teacher who in turn had complained to Seeya and insisted that the student be disciplined. Seeya had replied, “I will do nothing of the sort. You must realize that students must also have their share of fun especially on April Fools Day”. The teacher had been very annoyed with Seeya but he was not bothered by it.

During the war, the schools faced difficult times. There were students who could not afford to pay their school fees. Seeya insisted that they continue with their education free of charge.

Seeya was also a family man. Aachchi was a pillar of strength to him and supported him in everything he did. Even after he retired, Seeya’s pupils visited him, especially on his birthday.

On April 10, 1980 he breathed his last when I was very young. I did not understand what had happened. As I saw him lying in his coffin, I thought he would wake up and look at me. My eyes fill with tears when I recollect that I have not been able to share some of the most important years of my life with him.

“Seeya, I miss you. I always will. Thank you for all the love and care you showered upon me. I feel blessed to have known you as my grandfather. Thank you for everything that you have done for me.”
Kshalini Nonis

He gave all that he could to society and family
S.P. Fred Silva
“Be humble, do what you have to do and God will do the rest” was the adage that Fred Silva lived by. His life was tied together by the tenets of love, simplicity and commitment.

I believe that perfection exists and to me it was reposed in the life of my Seeya, Fred Silva. He was an exemplary man who lived a life of simplicity and modesty and gave all that he could give, to society and his family.

He never turned away anyone who came to his house with a bundle of woe.
Even though he was a reputed engineer and lecturer for many decades, his service to society went far beyond that. He worked relentlessly to uplift the lives of the poor and fought for the prevention of tuberculosis.

Vocational training for the youth was his passion and he helped many to find employment locally as well as abroad. Requests for support for the church and other charitable activities never went unanswered.

Such was his commitment to bring a ray of hope to the hopeless and those who could see no end to their troubles. His social profile was known to most but little do they know about what a great husband, father and grandfather he was to us. Never have I seen him angry or lashing out at anyone, and in my childhood I always remember him as a warm and kind person who was always available to everyone who needed him.

As a family man and friend, my Seeya was always an exemplary character around the house. I remember him being among us when I played with my cousins, always greeting us with a gentle smile and enjoying whatever mischievous things we did. I remember taking his hand and visiting the poor very often, to see to their needs, offer them advice and assistance in whatever way we could.

He was one of the very few in today’s world whose good deeds were appreciated while he was still alive. The villagers organized an impressive felicitation in appreciation for the services he rendered. His friends and relatives were always there to thank him for the good things he had done to them.

He spent 57 years of married life with his one true love, Clarice who meant everything to him and with his children and grand children around him. He spent a happy, calm and contented life. His unconditional love for his family and social service earned him the respect of all.

The childhood I spent with my Seeya is a cherished memory for me, and one that will never be forgotten. Even though he is no more with us, he will always be immortal in our hearts. I am who I am because of him and because he moulded and guided me to be selfless while seeking joy in the simple things in life.

In his simplicity, he enjoyed life to the fullest and finally when his call came, I’m sure he departed gladly as he had nothing more to give and nothing more to take.

Thus, ended a commendable life. In my eyes, my beloved Seeya was a perfect and complete man, who lived a perfect life and died a happy death. He was an angel who touched our lives and now, is perhaps looking down at us with his gentle smile.

Maneshka Silva

You taught me the greatest lessons in life
Wavita Don Albert
My Dearest Darling Thaththa,
I sit alone at the computer in this cold, winter morning, thinking of you. At first your death seemed easier to bear because it felt as if you had gone somewhere visiting. But, as the weeks passed by and your absence was felt more and more, the feeling inside me was like, "Okay, thaththa, you've been gone long enough, I miss you so much and it's time to come home", although I knew it would never happen.

I have so many questions to ask you. When I look back at my formative years, I have many pleasant memories. I recall the times we would chat about God and his plans. You were the first one to teach me "Our Father." Whenever I was troubled you would tell me, "Judy our life is the way of the cross. Lay it down at the foot of the cross.

You believed Christ had the power to change lives. In seeing that and seeing Jesus work in you, I believe it as well. And that I believe is the single greatest example a father can set for his child.

You treated each person as a blessing. You taught me that everyone was worth trusting and extending the gift of friendship to. Yet, by the mistakes you made, you also taught me forgiveness. You showed me love endures and grows with positive and negative influences that those we trust have on our lives. Trust, taught in this sense, becomes the greatest gift we can give another person, and forgiveness the greatest gift we can give ourselves.
Thaththa, you were a positive role model, instilling good values -whether I applied the lessons or not. You taught me that a life lived without integrity was really no life at all - whether that integrity includes taking responsibility and asking forgiveness for the mistakes we make or learning to enjoy our accomplishments without boasting.

When I was 12 years, you handed me the book "A girl grows up". Fond memories do I have of the times we spent talking about leadership, personality, oxidation, seeds, herbs, green houses and the hot topic, politics.
You taught me patience and steadfastness - that we can't always control what happens to us in life, but we can control how we react to it.

When you left us to be with the Lord, I learned of the many people whose lives you quietly touched. The stories that were shared with me during that time of grief, spoke of a man of quiet dignity and faith. God spared me a few hours to be with you before he called you home, which now are my precious moments of life.

Thaththa, you were one in a million! I love you.
Your Daughter

Dedicated, hard-working colleague and devoted friend
Kamini de Abrew
Though it was her wish that there should be no obituaries it is our sad duty to report that Ms. Kamini de Abrew, Inter Collegiate Sri Lanka Education Centre’s (ISLE) Sinhala instructor since the programme's inception in 1982, passed away on May 1. Tragically, she was struck down and killed by a bus after attending a Buddhist association meeting in Colombo.

In announcing this painful news to the ISLE Board of Directors, Prof. Roger Jackson of Carleton College sasid: "We join Kamini's family and many friends in Sri Lanka and elsewhere in mourning the loss of this remarkable woman. Generations of ISLE students and directors knew her as one of the best language teachers they ever encountered, and as a delightful and often idiosyncratic guide through the complex waters of Sri Lankan culture. She was astonishingly dedicated and hard-working, and a devoted friend. ISLE would not be half the programme it is without Kamini's contributions, and we all are profoundly in her debt and diminished by her passing."

Prof. John Holt of Bowdoin College writes: "Kamini was the first Sri Lankan I met back in June of 1982 when I travelled to Colombo to set up the logistics for the first contingent of ISLE students. I knew from that very first encounter with her in the American Embassy compound, that her brimming enthusiasm would become infectious for our prospective students.

Over the years, Kamini poured her seemingly limitless energy into her work. While she was proud and celebrated her successes with our students, she was never completely satisfied with the status quo. Every year she approached each new batch of ISLE students with a fresh set of "competencies" in mind, taking into account meticulously what had worked well in previous years and what she thought still needed to be improved upon. Kamini thoroughly understood, almost as an article of faith, that learning the language of a culture is tantamount to learning about the culture per se.

“ I marvelled at her energy (those frequent commutes to and from Kandy) and her astounding resilience (in the face of those few students who proved truly incorrigible.) I doubt that any of our students ever lacked respect of her. To do so would have been to mock dedication. I also marvelled at her stamina, her adaptability (especially during years when we were forced, due to political circumstances, to change plans abruptly) and utter reliability (in a social context where that virtue is sometimes wanting).

More than once I mused that Kamini had given more of herself than we ever had a right to expect. Kamini was a product of first generation Peradeniya. When referring to Kamini in the company of other Peradeniya professors, fond looks of recognition and respect would surface. She was well known to many in the community. Kamini graduated in 1959, having excelled not only in the study of English, but as a track and field star. She was also a member of the national Ceylon table tennis team and travelled to China and other Asian countries for international competitions. She must have been a fierce competitor!

“She completed her M.A. in linguistics from Southern Illinois University. Her compassion for life was signalled by her extraordinary love for plants and especially animals. She was an active supporter of animal rights groups.
“What I remember most about Kamini was how she could get into our heads. She summoned our energies and demanded our best efforts, every day. I recall a Swarthmore student back in 1989 saying that Kamini even invaded her while sleeping, commanding her within her dream to 'dream in Sinhala, please!' Sometimes we meet characters who are larger than life, people with a presence that always makes a difference.

Kamini was certainly one of those. Unforgettable. My mind teems with so many memories reaching back through 23 years. Her impact, like a rising swell of good karma, will remain with hundreds of us for a long time. Nivan sapa labewaa! 'May she reach nibbana!' "

Sree Padma, ISLE's Administrative Director, writes: "I don't think I will ever find anyone like Kamini to work with again. Her mind was always at work to come up with new strategies about how she could be more effective with her students. At the same time she was always open to any new ideas from others. With Kamini, there was never a dull moment.

B. Herath

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