We go through our life and meet people, who become our friends and others who though never become personal friends, where one would invite them for a party, are nevertheless part and parcel of one’s life, sometimes more genuine than friends. This was the case of Asanka Mudalali, whose real name I only read on the banner when I arrived to pay my last respects. Today is his funeral at the Godagama Cemetery.
He would have been 60 in September, but on February 9th he got into a smaller vehicle of his, went to the Moragahahena area near Horana, parked his vehicle and went into a nearby forest took some poison and killed himself. He must have wriggled in pain while the poison worked itself in the body, as was seen on the marks on his face touched up. His body was discovered a day later.
Over 25 years ago, he had a small Austin lorry and he transported the remains of a dismantled house on Dickman’s Road to my farm from which part of my and many homes in the area were built, by my father’s generosity of giving people doors and windows with frames, roof tiles and whatever that could be of use if people wanted. At that time he was the only man in town with a lorry in the area who we could rely on for such transport.
He was a self made man, who through sheer hard work built himself a thriving hardware business, and tippers and heavy machinery for transport of soil and building materials. He expanded his shop, purchased adjoining land and across on the High Level Road about half KM from the Panagoda Army Camp. He managed to marry his two daughters off, with the assets he was able to settle on them, and brought up a son, who turns out to be a wastrel, indulging in most of life’s indulgences, from alcohol, tobacco, gambling and seems to have wasted a small fortune along the way. We do not know the real reason he committed suicide, but I suspect most of it had to do with the son, and his wasteful ways, constantly having to pay up to retrieve vehicles and pawned goods from the bailiff. Interestingly he was not to be seen around at the funeral house, preferring to be inside in a room, unable to face the stream of visitors from far and wide, and when I went between 10pm and 12pm there were over 150 at the house at the back of the store.
He was always humble, and one could see him shoveling sand into his tippers a few days before his death, and whenever I passed his shop, and saw him at the counter from the road, never failed to stop and have a chat, and buy something I needed be it just a adapter plug or a tape measure. Recently, I was in the habit of assuring him that our nightmare political situation will see a transformation and a new dawn, and he always wished me well in my new endeavors. I always assured him right will eventually triumph over wrong and one just needed a little patience. I just think his patience had just run out.
I had anyway in the past purchased all my building materials from him when I built my shop and did various renovations and repairs around the house, and over the years could have topped a million or two. However he was always very reasonable with his prices, as compared with his nearby competitors, and he never failed to fetch an item he did not have in his shop from elsewhere asking me to come in a few hours to pick up. There was NEVER a question for me as to who I would go in the first instance if I needed any building materials or hardware store items. I am now in a quandary as I know there will not be the same pleasure in doing business there anymore.
So sitting at the funeral house, talking to people from the area, his generosity and assistance seem to be legendary. Many were those who related instances of him giving items at cost, and even though there was a board clearly saying not to ask for credit, did in fact give items on credit on a nod, not on a note book we had to sign off. His personality seems to have touched so many people, which I do believe even his family were probably unaware of. I think it is that streak in him, that was a genuinely nice personality that endeared him to so many and helped in get such a regular clientele.
Many were the instances he would say he did not carry the particular item, and asked us to go to the competitor close by, where we knew we would be gouged, but he had the stuff! Interestingly when I was there his competitor came to pay his respects, looking very upset, but I wonder if he realizes how much business Asanka sent him!
Then the local three wheel driver was telling me, how a few times, he sent him on his three wheel, to get some items for customers, because he had run out of them, and he had sold the items to the customer, at prices lower that what the three wheel driver had bought them for, not even taking into account the three wheel hire that had to be paid for going to purchase the item out of stock.
With these stories talked about by the locals, his death at such a young age, where he seemed quite hail and hearty full of energy and life, has come as a shock to the community. I think we are all in shock, and I took three of my staff that night to the funeral house, and how they had individual stories they had to relate, as they all knew this man personally. One of them did confirm that he had said how much trouble his son was to him, and how he has helped get him out of many financially damaging instances. The son’s friends are all friends when alcohol flows freely. They seemed strangely absent at the funeral house though.
His wife, like him is a simple and modest lady, and I trust she can cope with this loss, with the memory that he touched so many people, and hope it will inspire more to his genuine human qualities that are fast disappearing in today’s world.
May his soul finally Rest in Peace and may he travel in his journey towards the Ultimate bliss unhindered from worldly matters.