Mulin Kurukulanatha

A ‘rose’ with a ‘sandalwood’ soul

Sandun gase saman walak ethenne

Nadun wanaye sihil suwaya soyanne

They say life is unpredictable. But somewhere in the timeline it was not. I begin with the above two lines which were the same lines used to address my much-loved late grandma Mulin Kurukulanatha by her beloved husband, the late Thissa Kurukulanatha.

I wonder how he could be so accurate about her from the very beginning of their lives. Maybe it was because of their everlasting bond. Mulin Kurukulanatha was born in 1939 in Moratuwa to a noble Catholic family. She was the second child of Pieris and Roselin Perera.

She lost her father in her early childhood. She had one elder sister and no brothers. She grew up studying in a convent where she enriched herself with English medium education.

Through her childhood and her teens, she became this amazingly beautiful person not just in looks, but also inside, with a humble and charming character and an unusual sense of kindness to people.

She started her career as a stenographer in the Social Services Department where she met her eternal love Thissa Kurukulanatha who came from a respectable Buddhist family and also lived in Moratuwa. In 1963, before her marriage, she became a Buddhist. It was not a difficult task for her to change religions as she had purity of heart. My grandparents had two daughters, Danthika and Vishaka.

Later she served as a stenographer in the Forest Department for a number of years, where she won hundreds of hearts due to her simplicity and warmhearted personality. She was a skillful wife in housework, a supportive spouse to her husband, and an influential mother to her two daughters. She had the skill of creativity in whatever she did. Whoever tasted her food even once never forgot the experience.

She used to sew elegant dresses for her daughters. Later, she used to sew frocks for us, her grandchildren. Her husband Sri Lanka Thilaka Thissa Kurukulanatha was a family counsellor by profession and voluntarily took to social service.

He was the founder of the Educational, Social and Cultural Organization (ESCO) which became ‘the torch’ for the disabled to enlighten their hidden skills. He made a platform for the disabled to showcase their talents nationally and internationally, cooperating with VSA Arts and the John F. Kennedy Center, USA.

In 1990, he accompanied his wife Mulin on a visit to Japan with a troop of the disabled at the special invitation of VSA Arts. His infinite need for caring for the poor and disabled would not have been a success if not for Mulin’s support for him as a life partner. She was always there for him, through thick and thin. Even after my grandfather passed away, she continued his social and welfare work, holding the position of Secretary-General of ESCO for few years.

In 2019, she received an honorable mention at the Divisional Conference of the Civil Social Organization for her years of unconditional service to the society.

When it came to relationships, she never had the suffix ‘in-law’. She was a loving elder sister to her husband’s four younger siblings. She was a mother to her two daughters’ husbands. She always loved and cared for them as her own. In turn, she also was not an ‘in-law’ for them anymore, and they treated her with utmost love and respect.

After my grandfather passed away, she used to live with her elder daughter who is my mother. I used to hang out with her often. Eventually, she became my confidante. I am honoured to be a granddaughter of such a versatile lady and I am so lucky that I was old enough to appreciate all her qualities. She used to share her memories with me, which helped me today to express her worth as much as I possibly can.

By that time, she was a caring mother-in-law to her two doctor sons-in-law and a proud grandma of five grandchildren. Her only grandson is an aerospace engineer, while three of her granddaughters are medical students, and the youngest is still schooling.

She did not try to change anyone as she believed that every person is beautiful in their own way. She used to deeply appreciate even the smallest things in her life.

On May 31, as usual she was holding my hand, smiling like a rose. I left her in the bed as she was sleepy, not knowing that I will not be able to hold her hand ever again. It has been almost three months since she left us. The more I dwell on her, the more I realize what a beautiful person she was. She was a rose with a sandalwood soul inside. Why? She was as pretty as a beautiful rose without the thorns. And she was like sandalwood which imparts its fragrance to the axe which cuts it, without doing any harm in return.

Navodi Gunarathne