Celebrations of mothers and motherhood can be traced back to the ancients Greeks and Romans, who held festivals in honour of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele, but the clearest modern precedent for Mother’s Day is the early Christian festival known as “Mothering Sunday.”
Once a major tradition in the United Kingdom and parts of Europe, this celebration fell on the fourth Sunday in Lent and was originally seen as a time when the faithful would return to their “mother church”—the main church in the vicinity of their home—for a special service. Over time the Mothering Sunday tradition shifted into a more secular holiday, and children would present their mothers with flowers and other tokens of appreciation. This custom eventually faded in popularity before merging with the American Mother’s Day in the 1930s and 1940s.
However, differently sons and daughters may describe their mothers, there is bound to be common ground forming the bedrock of a totally selfless unique human being who Lord Buddha had described as the living Buddha in every home! The apt description is even more poignant at the bottom end of the socioeconomic spectrum to observe how mothers in poverty-stricken homes would even go hungry just to ensure her children are fed adequately! She derives all her pleasures and satisfaction in the sacrifices she makes! One has to be careful not to lose sight of the role both the parents played in bringing up the family in different ways and to varying degrees! Really speaking, responsible and caring motherhood is universal including the animal kingdom! However, devoting this write up to the mother, let us reflect on our past how we all came to be where we are now, the pivotal role she, the most wonderful and important person played throughout, the unsung heroine with an unparalleled loving personality who would sacrifice her life for you ! She would portray herself as being happy and contented always knowing well that the trials and tribulations she goes through day in day out are best hidden lest it would affect the children’s emotions! A true omnipresent stoic in every family.
Be that as it may, we can take a lot of pride and comfort in the knowledge that our Sri Lankan Sinhala Buddhist culture we grew up recognises all these virtues without the need for a reminder in order to remember and celebrate the goddess who brought us into our world.
If one assumes Christianity and the Church play a pivotal role in upholding traditions associated with Mothering Sunday, you could not be further from the truth! Yes, in the hierarchy from the top, Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby down to the dioceses headed by Bishops overseeing the clergy, the Anglican Church plays a completely different ball game! As a mark of respect in my beloved mother’s cherished memories, I wish to share with your wide international readership our experience of blatant religious discrimination! How can this be the case in a western democracy? Here in U.K., we have the unparalleled freedom of speech to recognise nobody is above the law, every facet of public life amongst the Royalty, the Prime Minister, his government comes under the sharp scrutiny of the media. Do not be fooled!
My beloved mother died back home in Sri Lanka on 08 March 2006 attended by her only surviving son (myself), my Welsh wife and youngest sister from the UK to join the rest of the families. She was cremated and some of her ashes put in an urn was brought over to the U.K. where we are permanently domiciled. It was in turn put in a hermetically sealed factory-made casket and kept in a pergola in our back garden as a shrine to pay homage in Wokingham, Berkshire for a number of years. It then dawned on me that as the years go by, where could it end up when we are no more, pointing to the need for its internment in a cemetery. Enquiries with St Paul’s Church nearby revealed my Buddhist background was no barrier as there was a section dedicated to people from all religious denominations. Her ashes were officially buried after paying the fees involved and following the protocols, conducted by Farther Richard Lamey on 27 July 2014. Our enquiries with him revealed there were no barriers to laying a fitting memorial in due course. Later on, it was time to consider laying such a memorial and efforts to make contact with St Paul’s Church administration as regards any stipulations proved difficult with messages left on the answerphone remaining unanswered. Finally, my wife and I drove to look around where mother’s ashes were buried. It was patently clear seeing monuments of varying shades of black, grey and different sizes, there was flexibility. So, we ordered a ledger stone measuring considerably smaller than most in situ through a stone mason in West Wales who previously supplied a lovely gravestone where my father-in-law was buried in West Wales.
Coincidentally, we had driven from Berkshire to collect it, when the clerk at St Paul’s Church rang me on my mobile in response to the messages I had left. I explained clearly what had happened since to which her short reply was “Oh, I don’t know. You’d better meet up with Fr Richard Lamey on your return”. My arranged meeting with him was most upsetting as he was unrelenting and unreasonable in his outright dismissal of our case to place the ledger stone we had at a cost of £450.00 (possibly considerably more in Berkshire), citing its size, colour, inscription and carefully avoiding the mention of our wish, “May she attain Nibbana!” All my pleading to show mercy and compassion fell on deaf ears. When questioned why there were no such rigid standards or stipulations in respect of several other gravestones, in the same section of the cemetery, his stock excuse was that they were already in place when he took office! But it was patently obvious that he did not like the wish ‘May she attain Nibbana!”
I made an earnest appeal to the Bishop of Berkshire & Oxfordshire, Olivia Graham to no avail. Further appeal was made in desperation to Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury only to receive a negative response from his office, citing that the Archbishop did not get involved and had no jurisdiction over individual dioceses! It was Hobson’s choice for us: we had a wooden post with a small engraved plaque made by a carpenter stuck into the ground where my mothers’ ashes were interned. Any recourse to an exhumation of her ashes to be interned elsewhere was fraught with costly Anglican Church redtape (some £2000) with no guarantee of success either! My wife and I (both retired from NHS) were driven to sheer desperation, having to keep the ledger stone in our garage and finally, decided to sell our house and move to Wales in 2017. Rightly or wrongly, we discreetly replaced the wooden post with the ledger stone the day before moving house in the fervent hope that common sense would prevail amongst the Anglican Church authorities to let it be! Moving house first to Builth Wells in Powys, the wooden memorial post was erected in our garden to enable us to pay homage knowing full well that trips to Berkshire to lay flowers on the grave would be few and far between. We were wrong! It did not last long before I received a shocking email giving an ultimatum from Olivia Graham to remove the ledger stone or risk having it removed from St Paul’s Church cemetery with all its attendant costs to us and prosecution, etc. The dice was up, our daughter kindly agreed to drive down to bring the “offending ledger stone” to our new home, knowing Dad was visibly too upset. This tragic chain of events unsettled us again, forcing another house move and another to our final destination. In short, three house moves in under three years! The ledger stone was proving to be an unbearable source of sheer anguish and despair, eventually we had it refurbished by the same stone mason with an inscription to be placed alongside my father in law’s gravestone forever. My youngest sister who lives in Hayes, Middlesex and her husband kindly liaised with an “approved” stone mason in Berkshire to have a miniature memorial within the strict stipulated measurements at further additional costs placed over my mother’s grave on 30 June 2020. (Her birth anniversary). The whole harrowing saga is an indictment of the unspeakable insensitivity, callousness and ruthlessness of the Anglican Church’s arbitration in dealing such a devastating blow to a Buddhist family and it clearly demonstrates the yawning gap in what they preach and practise. This merits full journalistic investigation and verification for exposure in the media! Ironically, it will not be possible here in the U.K.
Legislation in the U.K. government has kept pace with changing circumstances and times under the leadership of successive Prime Ministers, e.g. discrimination against race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, age, etc., are all against the law. However, the Anglican Church remains buried in antiquated and archaic regulations and practices while still continuing to preach from the pulpit borrowing ostentatiously chapter and verse from Buddhism when it extols the virtues of compassion, tolerance, diversity, mindfulness, reflection, etc., to give itself a semblance of adaptation to modern life!
It would therefore be a comforting outcome to share our deep emotions with the rest of the world through your esteemed journal!
My email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mrs Paripooranam Rajasundaram- A Gracious Lady
I first came to know Mrs Pariapooranam Rajasundaram, who was born in Singapore on October 25, 1935 while serving a short stint in Jaffna with police intelligence. Her late husband who called her “Pari” was my very close friend, Mr. Vaithilingam Rajasunderam, the former principal of Victoria College, Chullipuram who was introduced to me by my friend and police batch mate, late Tissa Satharasinghe, who was the Personal Security Officer, to the late Mr T.B. Ilangaratne in 1971.
Mrs Rajasundaram was blessed with three sons and a daughter and several grandchildren and can be truly described as a very faithful spouse and dedicated mother, mother-in-law, grandmother and a great grandmother to the family of which she was matriarch.
My short spell in Jaffna in 1973 brought me closer to the Rajasunderams who celebration their 25th wedding anniversary in 1974. Theirs was an open house and my wife and sisters too came to know them well.
Mrs Rajasundram and her husband were good hosts and his assassination was a shock to all of us. It was then she became part of our family as she lived with us briefly till she obtained a UK visa to join her daughter and son-in-law there.
Many years later when she was living in England, I had joined KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and my family used to spend vacations with them in Cockfosters in North London. Mrs Rajasundaram treated us to sumptuous meals lavishing attention on us. She was very fond of my wife and two children and had a heart of gold. A devout Hindu she never failed in her religious obligations, lived within her means and was never greedy for what she could not afford. She firmly believed in being patient and willingly gave to those in need.
She was a lady who was selfless, full of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, very virtuous, and full of love and character. I can say of her: “People may forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel!”
My prayer as a Christian is that God grants you eternal rest.
NIHAL DE ALWIS
Independence celebrations for whose benefit?
Celebrating what? Bankruptcy, corruption and nepotism to name a few. Surely isn’t there one MP among 225 who feel we have nothing to celebrate. We say we cannot pay govt. servants’ salaries in time, the pensioners’ their entitlements. A thousand more failures confront us.
In our whole post-independence history such a situation has never arisen. We should be mourning our lost prestige, our lost prosperity our depleting manpower. Our youth in vast numbers are leaving the country for greener pastures. We should be conserving every cent to live, not to celebrate a non-existent independence. We should be mourning, walking the streets in sack cloth and ashes in protest at this wanton waste of money by an irresponsible government.
I can’t understand this mentality. The forces are also our young men who feel for their fellow men and women. Maybe their lot is a little better than the rest of us. But how can you order them to go parade? They cannot refuse. It is an unwritten or written code that they have to obey orders without question. I feel sorry for them. All that spit and polish – for whose benefit? Definitely not ours. We will be mourning in silence in our homes.
Aftermath Of Mr. Ranjan Wijeratne’s Assassination
It was on Saturday March 2, 1991 when that fateful LTTE bomb blast shattered the life out of Mr. Ranjan Wijeratne, Minister of Plantations and Deputy Minister of Defence, in front of the Havelock Road University Women’s Hostel opposite Keppetipola Mawatha.
Mr. Wijeratne used to take the same route from home to office every day. The LTTE had monitored his movements and found that it would be easy to target him on his way to office from a strategic point after receiving the information of his departure from home.
The LTTE targeted his vehicle right in front of the University of Colombo Women’s Hostel opposite Keppetipola Mawatha. The suicide bomber crashed into the Deputy Minister’s vehicle and killed the Minister instantaneously.
I had dropped our elder son at Royal College for scouting and then went to the public library to return some books and borrow new ones. After having done that, I was returning home when I saw a large cloud of black smoke going up from somewhere on Havelock Road. As I neared Thummulla junction, a university vehicle (I was Registrar of the Colombo University) was going in the opposite direction.
I stopped it and asked the driver what had happened. He said the Shanthi Vihar restaurant at the Thummulla had been set on fire. The police did not allow vehicles into Havelock Road from Thummulla. I parked the car on Reid Avenue between Thummulla and Lauries Road and walked down the Havleock Road to see what exactly had happened.
As I got onto Havelock Road, a policeman accosted me and told me that I cannot be allowed to proceed. Fortunately, at that moment the OIC of the Bamabalapitiya Police station, Mr. Angunawela, came to that spot and recognizing me told the police constable to allow me to proceed.
As I walked down I saw the damage caused. But there were no signs of any vehicle or any dead bodies as the police had got everything removed. There was a large gaping hole on the road where the blast had occurred. But immediately this was filled up and that section of the road carpeted.
I do not know who had ordered it and why it was done in such a hurry. There were pieces of human flesh hanging from the overhead telephone wires. The blast had also affected the house in front where there was a P& S outlet and a lady who had come to buy something had got her eyes blinded by the shrapnel thrown by the blast.
The parapet wall and the Temple flower (araliya) trees that had been grown just behind the wall were all gone. As I went into the hostel, I saw that the front wall of the hostel building badly damaged. When I went in the girls in the hostel were looking terrified and shivering with fright.
Two of the undergraduates who had gone out of the hostel as they had to sit an examination in the university had got very badly injured and they been rushed to the national hospital. Later one girl who was from Kobeigane, a remote village in the Kurunegala area, succumbed to her injuries. The university paid for her funeral. The security guard who had been close to the gate was thrown up and landed back on the ground. Fortunately, he had no injuries other than feeling groggy.
The next job was to evacuate the hostelers from the building. I telephoned the university office and found the Senior Assistant Registrar in charge of examinations was in office. I told her what had happened and to come to the hostel in a van. Thereafter both she and I packed all the hostelers in the van and sent them to the Bullers Lane Women’s hostel. This was done in three trips.
On inspecting the damage done to the hostel I thought the building would have to be demolished and a new building constructed to replace it. However, I contacted an Engineer, Mr. Upasena, at the Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau (CECB,) who came, inspected the damage to the building and stated that he will get it repaired to be stronger than what it was.
He stated that it might cost around Rs, 20,000/- to get the repair done. I contacted NORAD and they agreed to give the funds required for the repair and renovation. Mr. Manickam from NORAD came and inspected the building and agreed to get much more done than what we wanted repaired and renovated. The repair and renovation were done very quickly and the hostelers were able to move in again.
The reopening ceremony was attended by the then Ambassador to Norway, Mr. Manickam and the Vice-Chancellor. The Vice- Chancellor thanked the Ambassador, Mr. Manickam and the CECB for getting the hostel repaired and renovated to be used again. He never mentioned what I had done to get this hostel repaired and habitable again. That is gratitude!
HM NISSANKA WARAKAULLE
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