By Suren Ratwatte –
Richard de Zoysa was one of my best friends. A lot of people can probably say this. He was that kind of person. Charming, handsome, fiercely intelligent, compassionate, an amazingly versatile thespian, a talented musician, the whole package really. Richard and his mother Manorani had an amazing relationship. More like siblings than mother and son. Together they created a refuge for young people in their home that was welcoming, accepting, non-judgemental and wonderfully eccentric.
We were part of a large and rather polyglot ‘gang’ that hung out at the Arts Centre Club in the late 1980s. The country was going through an awful time, but we were young and somehow managed to have fun despite the horrors we were surrounded by. The Arts Centre itself was a little oasis of diversity, where everyone was accepted and where we all got along. That too is long gone.
Richard was a celebrity, before the age such people were idolized. We thought nothing of hanging out with “Kingsley Putha” of soap opera fame, the reader of the nightly news. Richard reading the evening news, in a high collared tunic with his wonderfully evocative expressions, was a treat. One that, thankfully, the bureaucrats who ran the TV station never appreciated.
Among my last memories of Richard come from my wedding, where he danced with abandon, while charming my bride’s two young sisters into dancing with him. His grace and vivacity, the rich baritone he sang in and the sheer exuberance of his personality did much to help us enjoy our special day, despite the horrors going on at the time.
All too soon those same horrors would consume Richard. One of the most talented, brave and brilliant voices of our generation was silenced for political ends that I still fail to understand.
“ Still are thy sweet voices, thy nightingales, awake. For death he taketh all away, but those he cannot take”.
Rest in Peace dear friend. We will always miss you.