Mentor and Mother for all “Gothamians” and Us

2018-01-13 00:08:34

 Mrs. Soma Premaratne
“Of all the gifts that nature could offer, the greatest of them all is a 
loving mother”

How do children remember their mother, when they themselves have lived through life to be grandparents? Certainly not in the way their children would think about them. These are two different eras with two completely different social values and lifestyles. Ours we live with nostalgia our parents still dominate.  

This is written on our beloved mother’s 11th death anniversary that falls on January 15, 2018 in gratitude to all what she has done for us and a countless number of deserving others in recollecting most cherished memories by most who associated with her.  

Our mother is best remembered at home as a very devoted housewife despite her career as a school teacher, a school principal, a social worker and a very affectionate wife of a public servant who was extremely principled and burdened with State responsibility sitting in a high position, he was very seriously attending to. Yet she was able to balance all of it with ease and efficiently. The responsibility was immense but the challenge was well taken up. We as children never felt any friction at home that we as parents live through with stress with the present day hectic life. Perhaps they dealt with stress too, handling the responsibilities they had to at home and at work. Yet with our mother, we were never allowed to feel they were stressed. She knew to go about with children, at home and at school.   

She was a woman driven by compassion, faith, commitment, justice and a heart full of love and happiness to all around her. She was an inspiration, a tower of strength for many families and individuals in difficult times. She had her own resolution in life to move without frustration and dejection. There was nothing she would say is “difficult”. It’s how much you put in to achieve what you want. To us she would say, “try a little harder”.  

That made her the most loved Principal at Gothami Balika Vidyalaya, Colombo for two decades. When she, Soma Premaratne was appointed principal in 1956, it was to the ‘Government English Girls’ School, Maradana. She took over from Mrs. Gladys Perera after Mrs. Perera’s retirement from service. Mrs. Perera had managed the school with commitment but with scarce resources. It was a small primary school in Temple Road, serving the not so affluent in and around Maradana and therefore was not one that was noticed and recognised by the authorities and the people.  

Our mother gave her whole life to this small and unrecognised school that ‘Gothamians’ are now proud of. Her steeled commitment to raise the quality and standard of this school for the underprivileged was such, in everything she did the school was her life’s priority. So much so, when she was asked if she would take up the post of Principal in one of the most privileged girls school in Colombo to date, she opted to remain with the ‘Government English Girls’ School, Maradana. She changed the medium of teaching in this school from English to Sinhala and changed the name of the school to Gothami Balika Vidyalaya. We believe she was fortunate in having a tutorial staff that was committed in delivering what she wanted. A strict disciplinarian, she was also of mind that a student would not grow into a complete ‘Citizen’ unless she or he is allowed time for cultural life. It was this philosophy of hers that allowed us, her children to indulge in extracurricular activities in school.  
At Gothami Balika Vidyalaya too, she had very good support to initiate many extracurricular activities. Over the years, Gothamians excelled in netball and athletics. They were into literature and drama.

Now a ‘national’ school, “Gothami” as it is now popularly called, became a school with a demand within a decade. During that first 10 years of her stewardship as principal, Gothami had grown from a small primary school with a small building , to a reputed school in Colombo with over two thousand children enjoying all the facilities they needed, able to study science, arts and commerce for the Advance Level examination. Three prominent school buildings were constructed and the “Budu Medura” which stands prominently at the entrance was done on her initiative. Gothami kept growing during the next 10 years of our mother’s service as Principal for 20 consecutive years ending in 1976. Gothamians are no doubt proud of their school and have bestowed our mother with honour, by naming a new and a modern school building as “Soma Premaratne Hall”. She was not only a Principal but a mother and a friend to thousands of school children and gave them a tradition that helped them achieve their life’s aspirations. Many excel in specialised fields and have reached high positions not only here, but in other parts of the world too.  

She was “Mrs. Premaratne” to her teachers, friends and students. “Soma Akka” to her relatives “Aunty Soma” to the younger generation in our extended family circle and then lately, “Aththammi ” to her grandchildren and kids. She had a few charming phrases often heard when she wanted to get things done. “Aney” was how she started off when she had most to do what she wanted and they did quite willingly.  

There were a few passions and interests she found time for within her heavy daily workload. She was a very good painter for one who did not share them publicly. Some of her paintings were truly amazing! She also took a keen interest in sewing and cooking whenever time permits in spite of her busy schedule and without exaggeration, she enjoyed them both.  

She also managed a small two room annex at our premises at 5, Havelock Rd. where many individuals who later excelled in many disciplines in the state and private sector were resident. For her, they were also like us, her own and never the “Land lady”  

She was a devoted Buddhist too and that perhaps was how the “Government English Girls’ School” came to be named as “Gothami Balika Vidyalaya”. A convinced Buddhist more than a traditional Buddhist, she gave to the needy and the deserving in society, her utmost kindness and compassion. Despite her responsibilities as a Principal and a mother volunteered with Sri Lanka Sumithrayo as an advisor for persons who needed emotional support. She also helped to rehabilitate “street children” devoting her time to teach at a centre in Mettaramaya temple, Bambalapitiya.  

Life for her was such, she was to parent us alone as our father was called to rest at a young age when we all needed him too. She was not one who wanted to live in despair. She kept life going for us with love and care. She accommodated our childhood pranks at times with a smile and at times with a stern look when the necessity arises.  

And for all that, thank you for being the “mother” you were to us and the “grandma” you were to our children. For the mentor you were for Gothamians, you will live for generations, no doubt.  
May you attain the supreme bliss 
of Nibbana.  
Chandima and Udeni

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