My mother, Mrs. K.D.S. Weerakoon (nee Perera) of Pilimatalawa passed away three years ago after a chronic heart disease. Her career as a teacher which she liked very much came to an end when doctors decided that she should retire on medical grounds.
My mother was born in Passara in the Badulla District, a scion of the Badulla Kotalawala family and was educated at the Badulla Girls’ High School as it was then known, and at Central College Passara.
She considered herself fortunate to have been educated in the English stream under the tutelage of teachers, some of them English, from the United Kingdom.
My mother used to reminiscence how dedicated and altruistic those teachers were, who had the well-being of the students at hearts.
My mother’s interest in English and Sinhala Literature were due to their guidance. She admired classics such as, Charles Dickens, R.L. Stevenson, Charles Lamb and George Bernard Shaw; and poets, Alfred Tennyson, Wordsworth, Keats and above all William Shakespeare.
My mother believed, the Bard offered one of the richest experiences in human culture.
Her Sinhala teachers too had been as devoted, and inculcated an interest in classics such as, Guttila Kavya, Saddarma Rathnavaliya and Ummagga Jathakaya.
It is from my mother that I imbibed a knowledge of good works of literature, stage plays and the cinema.
She used to accompany me and my father to see plays and films such as, ‘Maname’, ‘Sinhabahu’, ‘My Fair Lady’ and ‘Sound of Music.’
My mother served as an English Assistant Teacher, and while working in Passara she had met my father who had joined the Department of Health and opted to serve in Badulla.
My mother and father were very faithful and loyal to each other through thick and thin.
Several months after marriage my mother was diagnosed as a heart patient and treated at the General Hospital, Badulla. She followed regular treatment for 40 years.
After my birth, she had been transferred to Minipe near Mahiyangana.
Though diagnosed as a heart patient with complications, she had not flinched about being transferred to an uncongenial place without proper medical and transport facilities. At the time the nearest hospital with facilities was in Kandy, 60 miles away.
My father had to accompany mother to Kandy General Hospital regularly for treatment.
In spite of her disability my mother was her usual self, active and confident and kept house spic and span and attended to the daily chores without complaining.
She did her sewing, knitting and cooking, which was her passion. I would be failing in my description of my mother’s traits if I fail to mention that she was a connoisseur of food. She believed cooking was something one must want to do oneself.
Her culinary skills were par excellence. She could turn out dishes, Western, Indian or Sri Lankan, with equal ease.
Born and raised in Badulla, the Capital of Uva, her dishes included delicious curries special to Uva such as, kollu curry and manioc (Cassava) mellum.
She loved to entertain friends and relatives. My mother supplied me home cooked meals during the whole of my period in the Faculty of Medicine and during my internship at the Peradeniya Teaching Hospital.
Though afflicted by a debilitating disease my mother not only taught her students the subjects assigned, but also served as a Net Ball coach and was in charge of Girl Guiding activities in the schools in remote areas that she served.
Prof M.R.M. Pinto and Dr. S.R. de Silva,of the General Hospital Kandy who treated my mother were of the opinion that she needed Mitral Valve Replacement surgery preferably done either in U.K. or U.S.A. as these facilities were not available in Sri Lanka in 1990.
It was rather difficult, as the cost was beyond our means. Fortunately, an eminent thoracic surgeon, Dr. Nihal Kulatillake, then attached to the Cardiff Hospital in the UK undertook to perform the surgery at the National Hospital, Colombo.
My mother’s Mitral Valve Replacement surgery was successful and we are ever grateful to Dr. Nihal Kulatillake’s magnanimity and the staff members who assisted him. Thanks to them, my mother spent a near normal life for 23 long years after surgery.
Later she was stricken by an uncommon condition known as Steven Johnson syndrome.
She suffered very much, and was treated by Prof Chandrika Jayasinghe at the Peradeniya Teaching Hospital and was cured.
We are indebted to the doctors, and indeed grateful to Dr. (Mrs.) Rohini Tennakoon, Cardiologist, Kandy Teaching Hospital who treated my mother for over 4 years and did everything possible with utmost sympathy and care to make her life comfortable during her last days.
Dear Amma, you were a wonderful person, a dutiful wife to my father and an adorable and most caring mother and a dedicated teacher, and a loyal friend loved by all.
May you attain the supreme bliss of Nirvana
Your loving daughter,
Dr. Ayanthi Umanga