16 June, 2024


A Letter To A Girl About The Gardens That Await

By Krishantha Prasad Cooray –

Krishantha Cooray

Dear Trinella,

Although I know your name, I have never had the pleasure of meeting you. I know that no words can comfort you. Knowing that makes it that much harder to write, however, you will one day learn that sometimes people do things even when they feel futile, because there is nothing else that they can do. We do our best, even when we know that our best falls short. Way short, in this instance. So here goes. This is about your father. You know him much better than I do. Daughters know their fathers. Sometimes they know them better than even their mothers. I want to share with you memories of your father from a long time ago, in another country and in a different life.

I first met Christo Rodrigo…Well, I should say ‘I first met Christo Rodrigo, your dad….’ but somehow ‘your dad’ or ‘your father’ both seem too impersonal. So, I will stick with ‘Christo.’ That is how I knew him.

Christo Rodrigo and daughter Trinella

I first met Christo 30 years ago in London through my lifelong friends Rajiv Perera and Dharshana Wathudura. My first impressions of him are also my last. Throughout the time I’ve known him, Christo was a man who just could not hide his smile, even when there was nothing to smile about. He always seemed happy and infected those around him with happiness. Maybe he hid his sorrows well. Maybe he knew enough about life not to let its ups and down bring him down. He was happy. He smiled.

Christo was a handsome guy and he knew it. He always took pains to be immaculately dressed. Always. Even when there was no dress code, even when it was not required to appear ‘smart.’ I will always remember his two-door red sports car. That car and a well-dressed Christo with his sunglasses is a picture that will remain fresh in my mind forever. He loved to drive fast and make people nervous. He loved cars and knew almost everything about them. Somehow, your father never aged. He always behaved like a mischievous schoolboy. That is another impression which I am sure all his friends share with me.

Impressions last when it comes to Christo. As I said, my first impressions of him have lasted until today. All he had to do was smile and say something. The expression and the words, I feel, got stamped on the hearts and minds of those who saw and heard. This is why, although I have not seen him in many years, I write to you. He was a decent man and a good friend. Too decent and too good to forget. Too decent and too good not to be moved, to be shaken by his sudden departure.

What can one say or do in these moments? Very little. However, the least I could do is reach out to you. That is because the bond between a father and a daughter is very, very special. I have two daughters, so I can say I am an expert of a kind on this, and I cannot think of any stronger bond. It cannot be broken, even by life or death.

It was almost three decades ago that I shared a house in the little North London suburb of Enfield Lock with Christo and two of our friends. Christo was a good human being who was always willing to give a helping hand to anyone. He always treated older people with a lot of respect and love. He loved listening to music, especially golden oldies as well as country and western classics.

Christo spoke about his parents and siblings with great pride and fondness. In later years, I am certain he would have spoken of you and your mother Nishani with equal or greater pride and affection. Love and affection — these he had in abundance to give. And give, he did. He could never say ‘no’ to anyone. All his friends in London knew that they could count on him at any time. It was to Christo that we turned to in a crisis whether big or small. If someone’s life was collapsing, he would drop everything and help pick them back up. From the biggest favour to the smallest, even if someone was unable to attend to an errand as trivial as picking up someone from the airport, your father was there. He would never refuse. In fact, he enjoyed helping people. He enjoyed being with people. He loved to entertain. He was not overly ambitious. He had simple wants. He was also proud — he never asked for favors even though granting favors was almost second nature to him. I doubt that he ever had an enemy. The ideas of hatred or bitterness seemed almost alien to him.

At Enfield Lock, we used to stay up until very late at night and have a good laugh. You may have noticed, your father had a unique gait, or way of walking. Some of us used to imitate his walk and tease him. He took it in good spirits. We had fun, he was happy that his friends were happy, even at his expense. An honest, decent and kind person who was full of life. That’s the Christo we can never forget.

Christo was an extraordinary man, Trinella. He was full of energy and positive vibes. He always made people laugh, not cry. He was a devout Catholic and a proud Sri Lankan. He was a proud Josephian and most importantly a proud father. This I know because my wife has often seen him with you at Ladies’ College, when he dropped you and picked you up from school. Anyone who saw him with you at school could see how proud he was to be seen as your father.

Where did Christo go? None of us can answer that question, but I can say this, from what I know of him. He stays with you and will stay, always. The way he lived, the way he loved, the things he said — these will remain. They will be all the strength you need, now and later. He will be, in this way, in your heart and by your side, especially when you need him most. You are blessed Trinella to have such a special heart, soul and presence in your life. It’s all the love anyone would ever need. But know this – everyone whose lives Christo touched: your mother, your grandparents, your relatives and his friends, now share a common purpose. They will come together, to offer whatever support or encouragement you may need, now and always.

Uncle Krishantha

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