• Circle of Life

    November; for many this month represents the start of Movember, a month dedicated to creating awareness towards issues affecting men’s health, the month z_p10-DARajapakseof celebrating Thanksgiving, if you’re a citizen of the United States, or most importantly the month which the world remembers its fallen heroes, a day to salute those that gave up their lives to propagate change in the world. For me, November is also the month of remembrance and the month of being thankful. It marks the remembrance of my paternal grandfather; his birth and death, and the birth month of my beloved father; November is an emotional month, a month that invites a great deal of personal reflection, a month that draws me back to my roots, a month of re-understanding my purpose in life, a month that represents the circle of my life.

    On the steps of my verandah at my ancestral home in Madamulana, I sat peacefully enjoying the cool November breeze that swept across the garden, swiftly pass the coconut trees, rattling the branches as it sashayed towards the house, leaving a brief chill in my spine and a sniffle in my nose. The moonshines brightly in all its glory and the sounds of the monk chanting pirith on a radio from my fathers bedroom, fills the quiet dimly lit house that sleeps soundly to the absolute silence that conquers its surroundings of luscious green paddy fields. Everyone has retired for the day, and the village has fallen victim to nightfall. A sense of serenity, calmness and peacefulness surrounds me, as I pen my thoughts to words. Words have always given me solace; they have lifted me up and broken me down, but it has always been my guardian angel, helped me keep my emotions in control, thoughts in order and been my sunshine after a heavy storm. Writing to me is therapeutical, it enables me to reflect on my day, gather all my thoughts into one frame, revisit and understand in-depth conversations engaged, and most importantly it enables me to evaluate and put into perspective the day gone by. A habit inculcated from my childhood, by a man who up to date maintains two diaries; one for all his meetings and events and one in which he reflects and pens his thoughts; the greatest tool gifted to me by my father was a notepad and a pen, and my mother, the art of using that pen. A teacher by profession, my mother treasured the gift of language and knowledge, she emphasized the importance of education in us from a very early age. She encouraged my brothers and I to read and write whenever our emotions attempted to have the best of us; in boredom we were encouraged to write and let our imaginations run wild, during moments of sorrow we were encouraged to read and let our minds wander into the magical world of books, when in fits of anger we were encouraged to write till our minds were at peace again; writing became a part of our journey and words have followed me from Hambanthota to Colombo to Killinochchi to every nook and corner of my paradise isle. My journey, my experiences, my thoughts, my triumphs and my joys, my sorrows, fears and my secrets; I have penned them all to paper and I reflect back on those pages when I feel the need to understand a decision made in haste, when I need to remember an event that has occurred in my life or simply recollect a memory or an experience.

    We are what we believe and we are what we think. As revealed in the bestselling book – The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, ‘the secret is the law of attraction! IMG-20141108-WA0001Everything that’s coming into your life you are attracting into your life. And it’s attracted to you by virtue of the images you’re holding in your mind. It’s what you’re thinking. Whatever is going on in your mind you are attracting to you. Every thought of yours is a real thing – a force.’ With this mantra in my mind, I write every evening, so that my day draws to an end with my mind at peace.

    Tonight, like every other night, I once again sit down to reflect on my day. A day that has given play to my emotions, a day spent reflecting on the words spoken by my father and other members of my family about the work and life of my grandfather, whose death anniversary we commemorated in the early hours of the morning. Immersed in thought, I sat back and thought about Seeya. Being born a couple of decades too late, and owing to tragic circumstances, I was robbed of an opportunity to meet him. The pictures I have painted in my memory were from photographs restored and hung proudly in our home. I have heard many a tales of my grandfather’s good work, his experiences and his victories in life, all fondly narrated to me by my father. I was told he was a great man, a man that rose from the village and travelled to the city to represent his town of birth. A man of the people, selected by the people and who worked only for the people. His sole purpose in life was to uplift his people, bring about a change in their lives. See real growth in his village and have it trickle down to his people. And he did just that. He took great pride in the schools he developed in the village, some of which exist to this date. He welcomed modernization yet scorned imperialism, he believed in development and revered the preservation of history and traditions. He believed in an educated society that moved in tune to changing times and placed great importance in the role religion and culture played in further cultivating our minds and shaping our characters. He was a man whose words echo true today. A man whose footsteps my father chose to follow. And decades later me, his grandson.
    Seeya was born on the 5th of November 1905 in Madamulana, and had his early education at the Mandaduva School in Weerakatiya. His father, Don David Rajapaksa sent him to the prestigious Richmond College in Galle for his secondary education. Having completed his education successfully, he helped manage the family property; paddy fields and coconut plantations. He also worked with his elder brother, D.M. Rajapaksa, who was the State Councilor for Hambanthota and attended to affairs of the electorate. Having gained immense experience in the field of politics, he subsequently contested for the Hambanthota electorate at the By-Election of 1945. He won the seat at the By-Election and was included in the Committee on Agriculture and Land in the State Council. This gave him a good opportunity to tackle the problem of landlessness of the peasantry of Giruva Pattuva. Seeya adopted a 99-year lease scheme to transfer crown land to landless peasants in 5-acre plots. This immensely boosted the paddy and coconut cultivations in Giruva Pattuva.

    The historic and momentous change in Seeya’s life came about in 1951, when a disgruntled S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, irritated over the policies of the existing political party decided to form the Sri Lanka Freedom Party along with Seeya, Herbert Sri Nissanka and D. S. Goonesekera. Seeya being a founding member of the party and an ardent supporter of S.W.R.D Bandaranaike worked tireless with him and ensured his subsequent victory. At the historic General Elections of 1952, Seeya emerged victorious of the Beliatta electorate and won the seat for the party. Later on, in the General Elections of 1956, Seeya was elected as a Member of Parliament for Beliatta and in 1959 he was appointed as the Cabinet Minister of Agriculture and Lands.

    Throughout Seeya’s illustrious political career, he faced many ups and downs, similar to those faced by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party at the time. At the General Election of 1960, when the SLFP was defeated and the UNP formed a government, Seeya too lost his seat. But when the UNP government was dissolved and the Parliamentary Elections were held for the second time in July of the same year, Seeya once again emerged victorious in Beliatta and was an inspiration to the government led by Sirimavo Bandaranaike. Seeya was appointed Deputy Chairman of Committees in Parliament and subsequently as the Deputy Speaker. When the SLFP lost to the Dudley Senanayake led UNP in the 1965 elections, Seeya once again lost his parliamentary seat and at the 1965 General Elections, Seeya not only lost his political power but was also devoid of material wealth. During this period all his sons, Chamal bappi, thaththi, Basil bappi, Gota bappi and Dudley bappi were studying in Colombo and as thaththi recalls, Seeya found it difficult to meet all their expenses. But determined to educate all his children and thereby guarantee them of a better future, Seeya had sold his vehicle, leased his coconut estates and had suffered enormous economic hardships to sustain the family. On that fateful day on the 7th of November in 1967, when Seeya suffered a heart attack he succumbed to the attack due to a time lapse in being taken to a hospital. As thaththi recalls, there had been no vehicle in the house to take Seeya and thus finally after a long delay once he was admitted to hospital, his heart condition had worsened and he left the world on the 7th of November 1967.

    Seeya’s memory lives in all our hearts, his proud grandchildren who albeit never met him, cherish the tales and stories related to them by his children. Trials and tribulations faced and overcome by him have made our journey in life smoother. The road he walked on which he paved with love and affection, the hurdles he crossed with great courage and determination, decades later have been his gift to us. We are reaping the benefits of all the hard work, blood, sweat and tears he sowed so that generations of our family can continue to walk on the same road with our heads held high. Determined to continue Seeya’s legacy, strive to serve the people and empower the youth of my resplendent isle, with a tear in my eye and a sense of pride in my heart, I end this note tonight with a prayer hoping that wherever he may be, he is living a blessed and peaceful life.