APPRECIATIONS | Daily News

APPRECIATIONS

R. Rajamahendran

Blessed to have known him…

The death of R. Rajamahendran (RR) came as a great shock to me. I had heard that he had been tested Covid positive, but knowing the fortitude and fighting spirit of the man, I didn’t for a moment envisage death. RR has come out of many situations with the resolve to fight harder and accomplish greater heights. But sadly, there was no turning back this time as the Creator called him unto himself with the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. You have earned for yourself a place in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

I first got the opportunity of meeting RR in 1993. At that time I was the CEO of Holmes Pollard & Stott and also a news presenter at Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation. I didn’t have a clue that he was offering me a job when he asked me to visit him in his plush office at Braybrooke Place. After a casual chat about the media and ad scene, he posed me a million dollar question: “Why don’t you join me?”

He went on to say that he had me in mind for ICL Marketing. But I replied that I was in the process of building Holmes Pollard & Stott and it wouldn’t be right for me to leave the place as quite a few industry professionals had joined me – in a sense I would be letting them down.

RR went on as if he didn’t hear me: “You will be the General Manager of ICL and I will give you perks that you will find difficult to resist. I asked him whether I could think about it. After a warm handshake, he took me down a flight of steps and introduced me to his Group Directors one by one saying, “This is Pradeep. I’m sure all of you know him – he will be joining us soon.” He then escorted me to my car and parted company saying, “I hope I will have positive news soon.”

This was a very hard decision for me to take, but after very careful consideration, I decided to write to RR turning down his lucrative offer.

RR never got angry with me. He respected my decision, and from then onwards till the day he closed his eyes he was a major client of mine – a client who generously supported me at every turn. He always inquired how I was doing and I always knew I had a genuine friend whom I could turn to when I was in trouble. RR was warm-hearted, sincere and spontaneous all the time.

I remember him advising me not to neglect my business when I took up public office in 2015. I wish I had taken his candid advice!

RR never forgot my birthday. Every year he would send me the biggest bowl of flowers and at Christmas a lovely gift for the entire family.

I visited RR a few months before his passing away. He promptly fixed up meetings with his CEO and Group Directors to see if there were more opportunities with regard to advertising. Within weeks, things opened up and I could breathe again! As usual he wanted to accompany me to my car, but halfway down the aisle his son Sashi was there and he asked him to take me downstairs. Was that a premonition I wonder? That was the last occasion I saw him in person.

RR was a colossus, a personality who walked the talk. He was always passionate about the work he did and the people who meant the most to him.

His legacy was ideating brands that would become icons in the public eye, eg. S-Lon, Dialog, Anchor Newdale, Black Knight, Eva, Jones Tea and his beloved MTV and Sirasa.

I can still picture him with his winsome smile saying to me, ‘Non omnis moriar’ – “I shall not altogether die.”

“Farewell, my blessing season this in thee! Most humbly do I take my leave, my Lord.’

Pradeep Amirthanayagam

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Dyan Pathiravithane

An unforgettable all-round cricketer

Over the years, Ananda College has produced some elegant and successful all-round cricketers, who in addition were outstanding gentlemen. After scoring heavily in school and club cricket, they progressed to sport the Sri Lanka cap.

Ananda College has functioned satisfactorily as any of the other well-established institutions with high scale examination results and appreciable inter-school sports performances.

Dyan Pathiravithane was one of the best all-rounders produced by Ananda. He passed away on May 26 2021 (Vesak Poya) after suffering from a prolonged illness. He was 74 at the time of his death.

He was a person of distinction from a reputed family. His father was late Sugathadasa Pathiravithane, a well-known writer. His mother was Malinee. Dyan was the eldest of three siblings, two brothers and a sister. He was well aware of his family responsibilities. Dyan was a bright and promising student at Ananda.

In May 1961, at the beginning of the second term of the school year, there was an announcement over the radio requesting students to participate in Under 14 cricket practices at the Campbell Place grounds. Most of the Under 14 students were attending the middle school in the Buddha Jayanthie Mandiraya.

Initially, 100 to 150 students participated in cricket practices. At the start, some Under 16 cricketers, viz., A.G. Perera, Thilak De Silva, Lakshman Weerasooriya and Mahinda Samarasinghe were given fielding practice. After a few weeks, only 60 to 70 students turned up for practices.

In the corner of the Nalanda Vidyalaya ground, adjoining the Industrial School, there was a juvenile half matting cricket pitch where we had batting practices. Some of the players of the College first team were taught the rudiments of the game. They were Yatagama Amaradasa, T.D. Rajapakse, Kumar De Silva, Sarath Wimalaratne and others.

An early memory that comes to mind is Kumar De Silva’s ground fielding and accurate throwing of the ball to the wicket keeper and his catches. He used to give 10 to 15 catches to every player. That was basically why our players had a high standard of fielding in any position.

It was the normal practice to play a number of practice matches and finally inter-house matches to select the team.

Dyan played a key role in the Under 14 team. He was an athlete who had developed the physical attributes required for pace bowling in addition to being a six-footer. His performance as an all-rounder were recognized by A.D. Karunananda, the master-in-charge, who without hesitation selected Dyan to captain the team consisting of G.C. Perera, Ananda Sumanadasa, Lalith Gunaratne, Lakshman De Silva (w.k.), Sunil Wettimuny, Ananda Levangama, Darell Mathew, Upali Hettige, Neelagiri Ilukkumbure, Mahinda Jayasinghe and the writer.

During the season, Ananda played against S. Thomas’ Mount Lavinia, St. Joseph’s College, Greenlands College (present Isipathana), Zahira College, Thurstan College, St. Peter’s College, Nalanda Vidyalaya and Dharmasoka College, Ambalangoda. I can recall well that before every match, Dyan took the responsibility to select the team.

I recall the match against St. Peter’s College, Bambalapitiya. St. Peter’s was bowled out for about 180 runs. Ananda was in a bad position when Dyan came to the middle with magnificent strokes. Dyan hit sixes and fours against all the bowlers, viz., Tony Opatha, the Patternott brothers, Darell Wimalarathne and Gamini Gunasena Jr. to all corners of the Bambalapitiya grounds. Dyan played a Captain’s innings of 70 odd runs not out where Ananda won the match.

At the end of Under 14 season, Dyan was 14 plus when he was selected to play for the College XI in 1962. At that time the Captain of the team was Sarath Wimalaratne. Dyan was never shy to match his skills with the seniors in the team.

The 1963 Big Match against Nalanda Vidyalaya was played at the Oval. In those days, there was no limit for the number of overs to be bowled and no official match referee. Nalanda had to get seven runs in about 10 minutes. At this stage, Dyan took control of the Anandians and started wasting time by tying the boot laces, putting the ball in his pocket and re-setting the field. Finally, the frustrated crowd invaded the field and the game ended in a draw.

In 1964, when Dyan was still in school, he was selected to play in the combined schools’ cricket team, against the visiting Indian schools’ team. Anura Tennakoon was the captain of the local team.

In addition to cricket, Dyan was a good athlete. In 1962 and 1963, he took part in the hurdles in the College athletic meet. In 1962 it was 80 yards for Under 16s, while in 1963 it was 120 yards for Under 17 hurdles. In both years Dyan was placed first and the writer was second after a neck-and-neck battle. The two of us were in Parakrama House and practised hurdles together. The master-in-charge was Captain A.N. Perera and the College Prefect-of-Games was K.L.F Wijayadasa.

Dyan was a humble and amiable person who was loved by all who came into contact with him. If Dyan had continued his cricketing career, without doubt he would have been one of the best all-rounders in the country.

Dyan was happily married to a kind and compassionate lady, Deepa who had a very good sense of humour at all times. She stood by him in all his endeavours to serve the people and friends. His two sons, Ravi is a Brigadier in the Sri Lanka Army, and the Charitha, a working journalist.

My dear friend Dyan, may you attain the Supreme Bless of Nibbana!

Meghavarna Kumarasinghe

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Gratien Amirthanayagam

Eulogy for a gentle father

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

1 Corinthians 13: 4–7

The above Bible passage embodies the life of my father. The loss of my beloved father on September 3 has left a deep void within me. It is a void I have tried to fill with reflections about his life, and how his gentle influence shaped my own.

My father left a lasting impression on many people. To his business associates, he was a conscientious man with a steady hand and forthright manner. To fellow Rotarians, he was a tireless worker for the community who embodied their motto, ‘Service Above Self’. To his family and friends, he was a caring, compassionate figure whose quiet wisdom was reflected in the way he lived.

My father was the youngest son of five children of the JMO, Jaffna in the 1950s, Dr. G.A. Amirthanayagam and his wife Mary Teresa. Growing up in that loving family, he imbibed such values as honesty, empathy and kindness. In fact, I have never heard him raise his voice. He always had a smile on his face, was courteous and displayed a rare humility that came from the love of God.

Many are the lessons I learnt from my father. He never thrust his views on others, but whenever he gave advice, it was worth remembering. He often told me that whatever you do, do it to the best of your ability, and never take on too many things, for that would only bring stress and disillusion.

My father was a quiet, unassuming man. However, he was keen that I, his only child, be more outgoing. In fact, he was delighted when I excelled in speech and drama. He believed that these abilities would give me an edge later in life. When I became a well-known face on national TV as a newsreader, he was my best critic. He would carefully follow the bulletins, and when I got home he would advice me on how to improve my delivery. It was always a constructive discussion.

In his professional life, my father achieved a lot. Back in the ’60s or ’70s, he was tasked to set up Consul Expo. An engine of export growth, this organization promoted our tea, rubber and spices internationally and drove the success of entrepreneurs who would later become leading businessmen in the country. He then managed Abdul Hussain Jafferjee – a reputed export and trading company – before being appointed a Director of Browns Group and Siedles. He also launched the Sunny Hill coffee brand under Darley Butler.

In 1990, my father started a venture that would mark a turning point in my own life. Partnering with three entrepreneurs from Australia, he founded Holmes Pollard & Stott. He guided me through my early years as CEO, and today I’m the sole custodian of this successful ad agency.

It was in the Rotary movement that my father’s community spirit found expression. An active member since 1976, he held various positions in its hierarchy, including President of the Rotary Club of Colombo West. In his many years with Rotary, he spearheaded a number of projects. Among these was bringing down instructors from USA to impart English teaching skills to Sri Lankan teachers. It was highly successful, and the Americans stayed for a couple of years, inspiring and training others. He also served as Rotary District Secretary to District Governor K. R. Ravindran, who later became President of Rotary International.

Interestingly, different people called my father by different names, but always in an endearing tone. Born Gratien Andre Premraj Amirthanayagam, he was called Gratien by close friends, business associates and fellow Rotarians. To classmates, he was simply Andrew. His extended family preferred calling him Prem. And to his siblings, he was always Thambi (being the youngest brother in the brood).

I will always carry fond memories of my father. When young, I would accompany him to the stadium whenever an international cricket team visited the country. His deep knowledge of cricket and other sports gradually seeped into me. It proved vital years later when I became a cricket commentator. He also inspired me to serve the community through the Rotary movement. It was a truly fulfilling journey, and two decades after him, I too was elected President of the Rotary Club of Colombo West. He took great pride in the fact that I was the 50th President of the Club.

My father never hankered after material possessions. Rather, he found meaning and purpose in life’s simple joys, like spending time with the family. He trusted in God and spread love and warmth all around in his own quiet way. My family and I miss him deeply, but we know that his gentle spirit will always remain with us.

In conclusion, I would like to paraphrase Horatio: “Goodnight sweet Dad, may flights of Angels sing thee to thy rest.”

Pradeep Amirthanayagam


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