A century, whether it be at a cricket match or a break on the billiard table is an event which calls for publicity and celebrations.
I consider it a great honour and privilege to send this congratulatory message to my very dear sister-in-law, Mrs. Sumana de Silva, my husband’s sister, on her one hundredth birthday which will be on the 8th of May.
Sumana Akka, as we all affectionately call her, was born on May 8, 1917 in Ambalangoda. She was the eldest child of Mr. and Mrs. Patuwatha Withana Thomas de Silva. She started schooling at Girls’ High School, Kandy and later when her father joined Government service, she joined Southlands College, Galle, where she was a boarder at the Hostel. She joined the Govt. Training College in 1941 when it was situated at Thurstan Road and passed out as an English teacher in 1942. After training, she joined Prajapathi Vidyalaya, Ambalangoda and later taught for a short time at Mahabodhi College, Colombo. She spent 27 years of her teaching career at Ananda College, Colombo from 1948 to 1975. During her tenure as a teacher, she was sent on a scholarship to the University of Michigan to study English as a second language.
As a teacher, thousands of students have passed through her hands and I’m sure she still remembers each and every one by name. Many of her students have become leading doctors, lawyers, engineers, administrators, academics, officers of the Armed Services, Police, businessmen, planters and so on.
She always practised what she preached and left an indelible mark on everyone who came into contact with her. She was a much-loved teacher, who rendered almost 35 years to education. She never sought publicity but went on in quiet efficiency throughout the years, giving of her best at all times. Generations of young men have surely reaped the benefits of her high ideals and values.
Sumana Akka is very kind-hearted and possessed a sense of fair play and justice. Simplicity was the hallmark of her personality. She possesses many admirable qualities – patience, integrity, amiability and honesty.
She married Mr. Donald de Silva who worked at the Department of Fisheries. Her husband passed away in 1994, just a couple of months before their 50th wedding anniversary. She was the pivot around which her family unit revolved. Her family always came first. She symbolized the quintessential qualities of motherhood and was an exemplary mother whose devotion and concern for her children extended beyond their childhood years. Her unconditional love and understanding allowed her children to make their own way in life and today all of them are doing extremely well.
She is the mother of four children. The eldest, Dr. Lal de Silva, is a consultant surgeon. The second, Dr. Iyanthiemala Abeywickreme is also a consultant physician and was the former President of the Sri Lanka Medical Association. Tissa de Silva, the third is an engineer and is the Director of Intelligent Systems (lBl) Group in Canada. The youngest, Channa de Silva who captained the Ananda College Cricket team was an officer in the Air Force and migrated to Australia after marriage.
Although Sumana Akka is a centenarian, she has her wits about her and is interested in all that is happening around her and in the country. Very great indeed! Till recently she was an avid reader and is still an ardent cricket fan and a champion at Scrabble. She is a very good seamstress and has done exquisite cross-stitch embroidery on her own clothes as well as household linen. She is an excellent cook and can turn out tasty dishes in a jiffy. All these activities have slowed down gradually due to failing eyesight. She is a true Buddhist and lives by the principles she upholds. After her retirement it was her practice to visit the Kuppiyawatte Temple regularly. She lives with her daughter at Fifth Lane, Colpetty.
Here’s wishing her a very happy birthday and may the Noble Triple Gem bless her with good health, happiness, peace and contentment, all of which she richly deserves.
Chatra S. Withana