Thursday, March 7, 2013

JAD Caralina Alwis – 27th January 1933 – 4th March 2013

She was at work till the day before yesterday! She was admitted yesterday, and died today 4th March 2013. Funeral set for the day after tomorrow, 6th March 2013.

It is important to me on my personal blog to recognize the significance of the above lady in the development of the farm I live in over a 40 year period.

She was a remarkable woman who had been widowed in her 30s prior to coming to work on the farm that my father had, in 1973. She was a single mother with three young sons, of 8, 10 and 12 to bring up, with little personal wherewithal.

As was mentioned at the funeral she was able to raise these three boys, to be pillars of the local business community of Godagama, where they live, in various trades as the owners of their own businesses. Further raising these boys with one going to Jayawardenapura University was a feat in itself, and the closely knit family who now live almost next door to each other, is a testament to a united family with wives and children, (also in University) something that is rarely found in Sri Lanka these days.

Though her family were now economically in good health, she still chose to go to work on the farm, to manage it and come every day of the week between 7.30am and 4.30pm is a testament to her dedication to her work, her love for the farm, and her interest till the last moment on arranging new plantings and recently even hosting a forum for Coconut Seedling cultivation group is an indication of a rare quality.

I was telling her sons at the funeral house how interested she was till the end about farming, and new types of plant and planting techniques. I have collected all the cuttings for the last few years from newspapers as it pertains to farming and gave the file to her to read. She had gone through the whole file and had picked out the relevant tidbits to implement.

We were talking about a new variety of Goraka, and she also told me that all this time she was planting the “kiri ala” a potato type legume, in the wrong manner, and that she has now learned of an easier method. I said to plant as many of these in the new system, as it is a very nutritious and if cooked well a delightful dish that one can use as a breakfast meal. She had also started a new coconut seedling nursery using good nuts for me to take to Polonnaruwa once they were of a size ready to be replanted, an indication of what one can learn from an 80yr old farmer.
She told her sons, that she would be bored at home, and enjoyed coming to the farm about half km from her home, only latterly by a three wheeler, earlier she used to walk to and from. She could boss the workers, sell the produce to those who come to the farm gate, chat with her friends who turn up to buy a coconut or a bunch of bananas. Her lunch was delivered to her from her home.

Up until last Saturday, Caroline, as I called her, came to the farm, sorted out the weekly food basket my father takes home with him, along with his laundry washed, and folded, and seemed perfectly well. The following day, Sunday, she was not feeling too well, and did not come, and her family had taken her to the local hospital, in Homagama (well equipped with modern facilities) and did not seem too serious. She had a heart attack the next day Monday at around 11am when she died, with less than 24 hours in hospital.

Since my return to Sri Lanka in November of 2004, I have used the farm as my principal abode, and had close contact dealing with her, as she was the person who ran the farm here, whilst I was travelling to and from Polonnaruwa on my farming work, and then once I was unable to work due to my accident, was able to take care of the daily routine on the farm till now.

In Sri Lanka, for whatever reason when the final speech of thanks is made before the casket is closed and taken for cremation, all those who assisted at the funeral are mentioned. What is uniquely Sri Lankan is that all the names of the politicians who paid their respects is also mentioned. IS that the reason they come to funerals so the crowd gathered at the final rites hear the names of the politicians?

Just for the record, lest we forget! I shall just repeat the list; Ravi Karunanayake MP, Senior Minister Fowzie MP, Leader of the Opposition of the Western Provincial Council – Manju Sri Arangala who gave the final address, Gamini Tilakasiri PC, Upali Kodikara PC, AD Kumarasiri PS the Chairman of the Homagama Pradeshiya Sabha, and a sprinkling of other provincial councilors and pradeshiya sabha members.

Caroline had helped a struggling Pirivena in Sooriyawewa in the Hambantota area for many years, arranging an annual pilgrimage from Godagama of a bus load to take gifts and books and dry rations to the young Samanaras (monks in training some as young as 10) of the pirivena. When they heard of her demise, the Chief Priest brought over 40 of the trainees in their saffron robes to the funeral in a bus. That was a memory one would not easily forget, as a token of their appreciation for her efforts over the past many years.
I would also like to mention one point to explain her dedication to her work, where after she had gone on a day trip with her family and grand children to Galle on 25th February, a Poya Day, as the 25th is usually the pay day, she told her son that she must get back in time to pay the wages, and so she had come by 3pm to the farm to pay the monthly wages to the staff, before I dropped her in my vehicle afterwards.

Coincidentally I was sent a facebook quote today, which I copied below to give an indication of the similarity of this lady to the mother in the quote, one can more visually understand the struggle one must have had to bring up a family, with no husband for support, to single handedly bring up three upstanding citizens who without doubt contribute tremendously in their own way to the growth of this country’s economy and the neighborhood we live in. They are all dedicated hardworking people who have instilled that in their own children and no doubt the grandchildren will also remember the tower of strength and unity that their grandmother had brought to their lives that they will all surely miss.

Thank You Caroline for a life well lived, and an example to us all.

The link is to a blog entry in 2007, where she organized a Kiri Amma Dana.

One young man went to apply for a managerial position in a big company. He passed the initial interview, and now would meet the director for the final interview.

The director discovered from his CV that the youth's academic achievements were excellent. He asked, "Did you obtain any scholarships in school?" the youth answered "no".

" Was it your father who paid for your school fees?"

"My father passed away when I was one year old, it was my mother who paid for my school fees.” he replied.

" Where did your mother work?"

"My mother worked as clothes cleaner.”

The director requested the youth to show his hands. The youth showed a pair of hands that were smooth and perfect.

" Have you ever helped your mother wash the clothes before?"

"Never, my mother always wanted me to study and read more books. Besides, my mother can wash clothes faster than me.

The director said, "I have a request. When you go home today, go and clean your mother's hands, and then see me tomorrow morning.

The youth felt that his chance of landing the job was high. When he went back home, he asked his mother to let him clean her hands. His mother felt strange, happy but with mixed feelings, she showed her hands to her son.

The youth cleaned his mother's hands slowly. His tear fell as he did that. It was the first time he noticed that his mother's hands were so wrinkled, and there were so many bruises in her hands. Some bruises were so painful that his mother winced when he touched it.

This was the first time the youth realized that it was this pair of hands that washed the clothes everyday to enable him to pay the school fees. The bruises in the mother's hands were the price that the mother had to pay for his education, his school activities and his future.

After cleaning his mother hands, the youth quietly washed all the remaining clothes for his mother.

That night, mother and son talked for a very long time.

Next morning, the youth went to the director's office.

The Director noticed the tears in the youth's eyes, when he asked: "Can you tell me what have you done and learned yesterday in your house?"

The youth answered," I cleaned my mother's hand, and also finished cleaning all the remaining clothes'

“I know now what appreciation is. Without my mother, I would not be who I am today. By helping my mother, only now do I realize how difficult and tough it is to get something done on your own. And I have come to appreciate the importance and value of helping one’s family.

The director said, "This is what I am looking for in a manager. I want to recruit a person who can appreciate the help of others, a person who knows the sufferings of others to get things done, and a person who would not put money as his only goal in life.”

“You are hired.”

This young person worked very hard, and received the respect of his subordinates. Every employee worked diligently and worked as a team. The company's performance improved tremendously.