Remembering Father B –Bhasura the Lion of Hikkaduwa

 

 

 

I had started writing this on the 13 May my father’s birthday, thought I’d finish it for Father’s day but couldn’t do it either.  So many years down the line,  I still can’t write about him without crying, without being choked by a myriad of memories. 

13 May, Washington

 

Today far away from Hikkaduwa in an alien land, I wake up in a strange room and think of Thatha.  13  May  was the day Thatha was born in 1918 – the second son to be born in the Siri Niwasa house at Hikkaduwa.  In all his letters to me he used to sign off as BK or Father B.

As a father he embodied the Sinhala  term “pithru snehaya” — a  love  father gives  a child– he was an incurable romantic  sensitive, totally a social bod in that for him what mattered most was family,  friends, our friends, villagers, tourists he met  — well in short everyone he came across mattered to him. 

The Siri Niwas house was an open house 24/7.  No one who came in left without some refreshments.   Mostly it was an invitation to stay for lunch or dinner.  And many were the ones who trooped in for sea baths and stayed to have a fresh young coconut  “thambili” water — plucked straight from the trees he had planted.  

There were stories to be told,  laughter to be shared, and plenty of sharp caustic  witty  comments.  He was in today’s terms a “wyswyg” character.  Sometimes the comments  were far too sharp and his foot in the mouth comments hit sensitive spots and we had angry relatives.  He was probably too laid back for this day and age.  Certainly he  was not the best in managing finances  and never had enough in his bank but his life was rich with love — the love he gave generously was repaid by many with dividends.

 After the tsunami, in Amma’s birawa almirah (Which had earlier belonged to Hikkaduwa Achchi) this note with instructions for Thatha’s funeral was found. Thatha had repeatedly mentioned all this  to me but I didn’t know such a note existed. 

 

If I get bumped off (no regrets) don’t take the ‘body’ home.  Keep it at CBO Florists (Kalubowila) and ‘fire off’ at Galkissa as early as possible.

 Inform the eye donation society and give the cornea ( the consent papers are at Hkd iron safe left drawer).

 Get the cheapest paraphernalia and only Bougainvillea Flowers. No music & no carpets. No “sokaspraksha” (obituary)

Only family members tohandle

 BK (signed) 19.12.77

Did we follow his instructions? No we didn’t and there were  no Bougainvillea Flowers.  Not out of disrespect.  I wanted to –but others, true to village traditions howled with protests. “If we cremate him  like that the villagers will think we were too stingy to feed them,” said Amma. 

 

So we had the biggest funeral I’ve ever seen in my life.  For 3 days we hired a cook and turned the Poseidon Diving Station next door  to a large dining room.   And we catered on average for 350 people, breakfast, lunch and dinner.  For 3 days and nights people came and went and we scrambled to buy food, work out menus, make tea and coffee. 

They came from far the long lost relatives, friends’ friends who had all enjoyed the  hospitality of Uncle Bennie.  There  were the old and feeble ones, escorted and propped up and aided but yet wanted to pay their respects.  Some were the ones he had given money regularly from his pension.  Amma only then realised why he never had much money in his pension.

Once he shared his cognac with a fisherman, one who was used to the sharp illicit brew “Kassippu” for his daily tot.  He probably found the cognac very mild to taste and had polished most of the bottle.  He never made it home but was found by his family curled up and sleeping at the  railway station.   The question of course in Hikkaduwa was what exactly did Mr. Bennie give him to drink.

Then there was Liyanage, the son of a school teacher parents who had not done much with his life.  But he was at our house as soon as he heard of  Thatha’s death and when we handed his body to the undertakers he stayed at the funeral parlour keeping an eye on the body. 

  

View of the sea through the cinnamon stick fence, Siriniwasa, Hikkaduwa.

Photo© Chulie de Silva

Liyanage sat with me on the back verandah steps on the floor after the funeral. Emotionally I was spent.  I sat staring out at the inky night,  and the tears  were not far behind.  The roar of  the waves was gentle  but didn’t soothe me as it normally did.  Liyanage broke the silence and said he wished he had a gun to give him a gun salute at the crematorium.   Memories of  the number of times of Father B had advised him to tread the straight and narrow path  was still fresh in his mind.  and he told me how this advise had helped him.  Pointing to the top of the coconut trees he said  “he told me that when the crests of the trees are as high as the roof of the house, I’ll be gone.”  Sure enough the top leaves were as high as the roof  on that day. 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

13 thoughts on “Remembering Father B –Bhasura the Lion of Hikkaduwa”

  1. The reference to “in Amma’s birawa almirah (Which had earlier belonged to Hikkaduwa Achchi) this note with instructions for Thatha’s funeral was found” brings to mind three “almirahs” in my life.
    The first is my mother’s. The inner side of the middle door – with the mirror – was papered over with old newspapers; one carried the announcement of the sinking of the “Titanic”.
    The next is a similar three-piece one, from Galle. The middle door (with mirror) was heavy, the hinges came loose, and the door came crashing down, breaking the mirror. We found that that between the mirror and the wooden backing, the space was padded with newspapers, very white yet. I still have them – they give reports of the progress of the Boer war and names of persons killed, and carry advertisements for Australian wine etc. I found that one winery yet exists. The dates are of 1901.
    The third one is also from Galle, which had belonged to my wife’s grandmother whom she never knew(she had died about 1914)but whose name she caries as a middle name. This one has secret drawers!
    So these old family almirahs carry a lot of history in them – in one of ours is pasted our consent to donate our eyes after death.
    The tradition continues!

  2. Chulie

    Reading you blog feels like stepping back in time.

    I am very impressed by the fact that you have hit the correct ‘tone’ of nostalgia.

    You seriously need to think of writing a book – you already have most of the data on your blog. So it’s a matter of collating it in a suitable way.

    You also seem to have dug up pictures (something most of us don’t have )

  3. Chulie,

    As a person who had known your father, your write up took me to the days I used to meet him on and off at Hikkaduwa. Events such as his driving his car and sometimes riding his bicycle reflect in my mind. His formal dress as well as the casual pair of shorts was the Benny style I am reminded.I remember my father who had known him (being of almost same age) speaking of their youth. Hence your writing also took me a generation backwards.

    As suggested by Dilshani you may start writing a book because you are a person who could vividly put across your ideas with great memories.

    All the best for a new endeavour.

    My Buddhist wishes for him and brother Prasanna to attain Nibbana.

    Austin Fernando

  4. Now I know where my radical ideas (as in the idea for the funeral) come from. They are embedded in the Kirtisinghe genes. I just wish I could have as much fun as they did back in the day. Have you noticed that nowadays you spend so much time on making a living that you hardly have the time to live a life? The people in the generations above us had less technology to worry about, but were still several orders of magnitude happier than us.

  5. My recollections of Bennie Seeya are few but very vivid. As a little girl, I would always look forward to his visits, mainly due to the gifts he would bring for me, which were priceless treasures … ‘imported’ chocolates, chewing gum, and for a long time my most treasured possession, a twelve pack of felt tipped pens from some far off land, which he had obtained from one of his foreign visitors. He coupled this with fascinating tales of the people from whom he received them. Always the storyteller and positive spirit; he never spoke ill of anyone. May he Rest in Peace.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s