By Sharmila Gamlath –
We live in times where many deep human emotions like love and respect have become commodities, often available in abundance to those who can pay the price, and denied to the less fortunate. In a world where almost everything is thus monetised, true friends are indeed a rarity. I am penning this note in fond memory of such a matchless jewel of a friend, late Nisanga Mayadunne Jayasekera.
At this time, I am still trying to process the loss of my dear friend and her mother, and as the truth gradually dawns to me, the sharp emotions caused by the departure of Nisanga and her mother are slowly starting to change from sorrow to an urge to celebrate two lives well-lived. Naturally, during this transition, my mind is desperately attempting to cling to and order the numerous disjointed memories of our friendship of almost eighteen years. This note is my attempt at telling the world at least some parts of the story of this bond that touched the depths of my heart.
True friendship stands the test of time. Even if you don’t speak to them for years, with true friends you can pick up from where you last stopped. This is exactly how I felt when I saw Nisanga and her husband Shaan after nearly six years last December at my son’s first birthday celebration when my family and I were in Sri Lanka for a long vacation. Despite having spent the entire afternoon at a wedding at Mount Lavinia Hotel, Nisanga and Shaan came back to the same venue to attend my son’s birthday party after dropping their baby daughter at Nisanga’s parents’ home. So large was Nisanga’s heart; never did she think of the inconvenience caused to her if she had the opportunity to bring happiness to another person. I vividly remember how she called me earlier in the evening, and promised me that she would join us somehow as she wanted to see me so much. When I finally saw Nisanga and her husband after all those years, I truly rejoiced to see them so happy together.
Not being one to procrastinate, Nisanga promptly invited us for dinner at their place thereafter. I still remember how I stood with her in the kitchen and caught up on scores of things within minutes and shared each other’s mom stories with great enthusiasm. It is heartbreaking to remember how much Nisanga was loving her life as a new mother and confidently navigating the associated challenges. To live with the knowledge that Nisanga was cruelly denied the opportunity to hold her daughter’s hand on her first day of nursery, walk her to school and watch her blossom into a gorgeous young woman by fiendish suicide bombers who unleashed their meaningless, fanatical hatred on innocent people makes me question numerous things, including the meaning of our very existence.
Going further down memory lane, when my father lost his battle with cancer, I was left in deep remorse and despair. I remember so well how Nisanga taught me a thing or two about life in that difficult moment. She told me how everyone goes through tough times, but also assured me that I would find the strength to overcome the pain. Similarly, at various points in my life when I felt like my life was crumbling, Nisanga offered me invaluable advice that helped me get back on track. So powerful was her ability to instil positivity and solve problems. It deeply saddens me to acknowledge that I will never again hear words of wisdom in her melodious voice.
Going back many more years, I fondly recollect how my father and I would pick up Nisanga from her home in Kottawa on my way to university, and how she would, being the chatty, bubbly character she was, incessantly talk to my father about so many things ranging from politics to recipe books in King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe’s Palace kitchen. Being of more reserved demeanour, I would often play the role of listener during these conversations, interrupting them with the occasional question or remark. The extraordinary oratory skills that Nisanga possessed were undoubtedly the key to the popularity of Business Today, a TV program she hosted for the past several years.
I recall only too well how we shared each other’s lunches, spent hours studying together and sat next to each other during lectures, including those delivered by Shaan Jayasekera, who, many years later, became Nisanga’s loving husband. Ever the enthusiast and multi-tasker, she used to engage in various activities like singing and compèring even back them, but never did she allow these to create any lapses in her focus towards her studies. I remember the mouth-watering food Nisanga’s mother used to make for me whenever I visited them, including the heavenly jaggery cake she once sent us for Sinhala New Year. I have made jaggery cake many times over the years, but never did I manage to make anything even half as delicious as Aunty Shantha’s.
In a senseless moment of pure terror, while I lost a sincere friend, a husband lost his loving wife, a beautiful, tender little cherub aged just nine months lost her mother, a father lost both his wife and daughter, a young woman lost her only sister and the world lost an exemplary human being who had the remarkable capacity and capability to move seamlessly across a multitude of roles including those of adoring mother, devoted wife, dutiful daughter, dedicated banker, vivacious TV host and gifted songwriter.
Nisanga, I will forever cherish the beautiful memories that you left me, and relish in the belief that, as another close friend of mine recently said, you were only taken away so soon and unexpectedly because you were too good for this world. I will fondly embrace memories of your beautiful smile and the good times we had together forever. Goodbye my dearest friend, until we meet again in a place where peace and happiness reigns. May you and your loving mother attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana.