I first met Rohan nearly 18 years ago at the chambers of our family dentist. We had both come without appointments and had to spend time. I realized that I was standing next to a well-built gentleman with a charming personality. Having exchanged smiles we realized that we were looking hard at each other’s pockets admiring the pens safely berthed. I broke the ice by stating that he is sporting the latest Dunhill AD 2000 and he responded by stating that he can spot the latest Parker Duofold in my pocket.
As the patients left , we sat and admired each other’s pens, wrote a few lines on sparsely populated advertisement of an ancient TIME Magazine. He mentioned that he obtained the pen from Singapore and I mentioned that I got mine as a gift from the Parker Company.
He was thrilled and said that he must then get to know me.
Rohan was one of the most knowledgeable persons whom I have met. He had a gentleman’s library worthy of admiration.
That was the birth of our friendship which grew day by day to the extent that by the time he left us forever, we used to take turns to call each other every day. True to the first day, we continued to write with each other’s pens and discuss our experiences to the much amusement of my wife.
Rohan hailed from a distinguished family, his father worked for International Agencies in Africa. He was educated at St. Joseph’s College after which he worked in the UK, before returning to Sri Lanka to work with Upali Wijewardene, founder Chairman of the GCEC, presently known as BOI.
I understand that Rohan played a pioneering role and immensely enjoyed that experience, in particular travelling with the great man in many countries. He married Dileeni also from a prominent family and they were blessed with a daughter, Shayani whom he adored so much. Rohan was one of the most knowledgeable persons whom I have met. He had a gentleman’s library worthy of admiration. Books covering a wide range of subjects such as, wildlife, photography, historic battles, armour, literature, arts, countries, cities, Sri Lankan maps and prints as well as others were methodically placed in teak book cases, reminding me of reading rooms in stately homes of England.
I was a privileged member of his library which was a part of his legacy to Shayani. At any given time he would be reading a few books in parallel. Rohan had rich tastes and to an extent a selective and knowledgeable collector. Whether it may be a Sri Lankan map or print, a vase, ancestral writing bureau or a Chinese wooden screen, he knew the history of his collections A to Z. It was a pleasure listening to him and exchanging views on these subjects, always with his perpetual smile, focused eyes, providing the best of description using minimum amount of words that too spoken softly.
Whenever I prepared an article to a pen magazine he had the first preview and I would always take on board his thoughtful comments.
Very recently we were preparing several joint manuscripts covering lesser known tales of pens and their manufacturers. He always encouraged me to find tales which were not in the public domain.
For example, the fate of the three highly precious Parker 75 pens with samples of lunar soil embedded in the barrel, taken by President Nixon as gifts on his historic visit to China, a great step for mankind in global diplomacy. Incidentally, Rohan’s first expensive pen purchased in England in the seventies was gold plated Parker 75.
He would have loved to have a coating of lunar soil on that pen!!! Over the last two months he was researching ‘inks’ and had downloaded more than 50 articles to prepare a manuscript.
He was fond of high quality notebooks and always had a pocket notebook and a pen in his pocket even when he was in hospital. I am happy that I was able to obtain a bottle of his favourite ink, the Pilot Yama- Budo made in Japan, fit for an emperor.
Rohan was very regular with the timing of his evening telephone call... She could not imagine that pens, ink and paper can generate so much of passionate interest and discussion among two adults.
During a recent visit to the UK, Dileeni surprised Rohan by bringing him the 90th Anniversary Rose Gold Montblanc LeGrand pen which he treasured so much.
A few weeks before he died he experimented with several inks and wrote specific sentences in a note book and gave me the task of monitoring the written pages every week to observe any discolouring using my special magnifying glass. This was not the first such task assigned to me. He will be happy to note that I am continuing his task with the same enthusiasm but without his reminders.
Both my wife Premini and I enjoyed the company of Rohan, Dileeni and Shayani. Rohan was very regular with the timing of his evening telephone call, and my wife would remind me to be ready for his call. She could not imagine that pens, ink and paper can generate so much of passionate interest and discussion among two adults. Rohan was a dear friend, a ‘pen’ friend and above all a very caring person who checked on me so frequently. He has left very happy and caring memories which we will treasure for life.
Our deepest sympathies are extended to Dileeni and Shayani.
-PROF. SAM HETTIARACHCHI