Chuti duwa, chuti duwa, Do you hear me? Why are you crying every night? I can hear you are weeping so much? Do you think I have gone without telling you? Can you remember the last time we met? I promised you I would return home in three days. It is true; I couldn’t keep my promise this time.
This was the only broken promise my beloved father ever made to me. It has been passed 10 years without him. How can I believe it still? Everything is just like yesterday.
I will never forget the date, September 19, 2004.
I was planning to go to Dambulla with some of my friends on September 17, 2004. The day before the trip I went to see him in the evening at our Maligawatte house to inform him on our trip. He was quick enough to arrange a boat trip for us to enjoy at “ Sathutu Dupatha” on our way to Dambulla.
“ Chuti duwa, I am also planning to go to Pollonnaruwa to visit “Somawathiya” Chetiya next Sunday with some of my friends who have come from abroad. I will be back home in three days. As you are returning to Colombo on Sunday, sometimes we may meet each other in Dambulla”, these were the last words he spoken to me and the last meeting I had with my loving father.
I never thought that I would have to carry my father’s body along with me back to Colombo. The joyful trip that began with laughter ended in tears to me. It was like “ an unforgettable trip”, not full of with sweet memories, but with a bitter experience and a sad note forever in my life.
However it was a coincidence as he pre- indicated, we met each other while on our way back from Dambulla. But he was not alive. He had gone forever, leaving me alone with much responsabilities.
Still I remember everything on that fateful day. We were at Kandalama Hotel, when, my husband Channa received a sudden message from my father’s second sister- Sriya aunty, saying that thaththa had been rushed to the Dambulla Hospital with a sudden illness. While we were heading to the hospital another call came, to notify he had been passed away.
I know how much you loved the environment during your lifetime. You use to treat the nature as your own mother. I still remember, an incident of one of your book-launching day. A week before the event it was raining heavily. At the book-launching day, in the morning, you went near the Wathsudda tree planted by me outside the home and touched a leaf of the tree and whispered some words to it. By seen this incident from inside the home I asked you, “ Thaththa what are you doing outside there?. “ I am seeking the blessings of mother nature. It’s going to be my day-today. I want her blessings throughout the day without heavy rain”, you replied to me.” It was a wonderful day, she has listened to my words”, you told me later, after the ceremony was over without any problem.
I know, you always like to share the beautiful, unique places that you have seen with others. As a travel journalist it was hard to find a place where that you have not been stepped into in Sri Lanka .
For you, it was a wonderful experience to see the moonlight in the mid-night on the top of the Sigiriya rock, to see Horton plains as a lovers’ paradise, miracle of Madhu Ganga with 64 islands, and “Namal Uyana” -the Asia’s largest pink quartz land, which you loved so much. Those were only few places in your long list of exciting areas that you have been visited. You made most of these unforgettable visits not alone. You invited Maestro W.D. Amaradeva, Prof. Sunil Ariyaratne, Nanda Malini, Victor Ratnayake, Kularatne Ariyawansa, Bandara Ehaliyagoda, Geethanath Kudaligama, Sarathchandra Wanniachchi and many other fellow artistes and friends to join hands with you in these marvelous trips.
I remember you were saying that each trip was ended with fabulous stories, fun and jokes that will be remembered forever. After I joined the Lake-House, I came to know from the drivers of the transport department that they were waiting eagerly to join you on those trips especially because of your kind hospitality and interesting places spotted by you were the venues that they could never visit .
It is true, that many pupils were glad to improve their feature writing skills under you and they are still re-calling their memories of how you had advised them to use the ‘third eye’ in feature writing. “ He was the one who taught us to look at in a different way, think in a different way. It is the way you can have a unique piece and path to develop your own writing style”, a student has written in your remembrance book.
Many are still recalling the way both of you treated the young generation who visited at you seeking assistance in their various needs. For me, it was not a new experience as from my childhood, I have seen so many brothers and sisters hangout in our home, especially after the “ Pahan Weta”- one of the first youth forum was found by you to up grade the literary skills of them. As most of these youth were from remote areas, the rented houses we were living later became a shelter to them as well. As the three children of Dharmasiri Gamage, my two elder brothers and me were taught to share whatever we have with them. Our loving mother Sita was the kind mother to all of them and never ignored to cook rice to these young girls and boys who come to Colombo with empty stomach. Both of them treated these sons and daughters as their own children and later it looked like a ‘one big family’.
The most important lesson I learned from you is to look at the life in the manner of toleration. What ever comes in your life, good or bad you had enough courage to take it easy. You proved to me the meaning of the real marriage life. “Marriage is not only two people living together. You have to look after each other when it comes to need”, you advised us. You proved it to all by looking after your beloved wife and our loving mother, Sita who was paralyzed and bed ridden for eight years.
I know how much you cried silently on my wedding day. I remember how often you were saying to me, keeping me on your lap “ I ‘ don’t like you to be grown. I want you to be my small girl forever. The bond between daughter and father became more and more stronger after we both became helpless and lonely due to our mother’s illness. During that difficult period you performed your duty well not only as the father but as a mother too. By presenting your “ Namal Uyana saha Rosa Thiruwana Kadu Pela” book to me you were glad to praise me for the service I’m doing as a daughter. Still I’m preserving the first copy with your signature carrying the lines “ Mawatath , matath Mawak vu diyaniyata (To a daughter who had been a mother to me and my wife too). But I often feel, how unlucky I’m as both of you could not see your last grand children-that is my son- Ryan and daughter- Chenova. Both of you had gone when I needed you most.
Today I’am, miles and miles away from all my loved ones. The loneliness and the sorrow of departing from the loved ones is in its’ heihest most of the time. Whatever the glad and sad memories are rolling up and down in my mind from time to time. Not only all the ups and downs in real life but whenever the injustices caused to me in my journalism career you stood by me as a giant pillar comforting me with your very own soothing words. It always comes to my mind that this would be the perfect period that I need you most. Yet, even at my middle age, I am not strong enough to bear the pain caused by the loss of my dear father whom I loved most. And I strongly believe that it will remain with me forever until I live.
- ANJANA GAMAGE-
(In memory of my father veteran journalist Dharmasiri Gamage)