Chutinandamma, you left behind many lessons to last us a lifetime
Prof. Chandra Kumari Abeysekera
Dear Chutinandamma, most of the world saw you as a pediatrician, lecturer, researcher, administrator, author and humanitarian. As a family, we saw and knew you in a different way.
You were there when I was born. You yourself were pregnant with Rajitha at that time, but you were right in the thick of it when Amma delivered me. It was only after the delivery that you realised that Thilak mama and I are going to share the same birthday hereafter. You would have felt quite exhausted after the delivery, because according to Amma, you had fallen asleep in the bed next to Amma’s after all the drama in the labour room was over.
A few years ago, during a family gathering, I jokingly implored all my aunts and uncles not to pass away on my birthday, because I would have to carry out rites and rituals in their memory instead of throwing a party. You were the first to remark that the family members have better things to do than scheduling their demise for October 26. You – out of all the family members, were not able to keep your word, but I am glad that you did not. You etched the reality of life into all our hearts on this day, and made it even more special than before.
I heard from Lokunandamma that you were born on a full moon Poya day. Apparently, your grandfather had thought it would be a good idea to call you ‘Chandra’ for this reason. It might seem premeditated by the cosmos that after several weeks of heavy rainfall in the evening, the moon shone brightly in the cloudless sky on the day of your passing.
A long time ago, around the time I was doing my A’Ls, during a brief visit to your ancestral home in Attanagoda, I rummaged through the old cupboards and came across the Physics practical record book which you had used at school – I still have it with me. The immaculate and systematic manner in which it was maintained was a tell-tale sign of how you would apply such characteristics to your future endeavours. You were always a medical professional in the making. Sudunandamma shared that students had to obtain at least five credit passes in the O/Ls, to go onto the A/L biology track back then. Under modern contexts, one might consider this criterion to be a meagre task. However, attaining a credit pass during those days involved backbreaking work, which only the brightest of minds were able to achieve.
Amma fondly remembered going over to Attanagoda for your engagement with Thilak mama, especially to help get the decorations and other arrangements in place. After the ceremony, you had taken out the icing flowers of the engagement cake and passed it to Amma. These icing flowers were subsequently used for Appachchi and Amma’s engagement cake.
I have lost track of the number of times you organised family gatherings, whether it be for the new year in April, or simply because family members residing overseas had come to Sri Lanka for a holiday. Food was always home-cooked on such occasions, and not just that, Muditha and I had to provide the entertainment – ‘Chandra me ra paya awa’ was always in the list of your song requests.
Prior to your retirement from the University of Peradeniya, anticipating all the speeches you would have to make for various audiences, we sat together, putting all the facts, figures, experiences and memories in place. No one would be able to comprehend the number of drafts we prepared, and the numerous times the speeches had to be modified, so that they were perfect. Meticulousness was always your thing and no one could come close to that level of precision.
So what have you left behind for us? Harmony, unity, coherence and many lessons to last us a lifetime. Most of all, you made us understand that life is not a bed of roses. Hard work, commitment and dedication will never go unrewarded. One has to do, what they have to do, not expecting anything in return.
Yes, I wrote this without shedding a single tear. Not because I am not sad, but because I am feeling irate – you left us too soon! May your journey in samsara be a short one.
Dr. Viduranga Waisundara