By Palitha Pelpola –
The earth, as Pundit Nehru penned in his epic book, ‘The Discovery of India’, is less than a spec of dust in this vast, expansive and more than thirteen billion year-old universe. And when one accepts the authenticity of the concept of ‘evolution by natural selection’, one cannot escape the conclusion that man alone has to master his own destiny, and this concept has always been greatly reinforced by the indomitable ‘Spirit of Man’. While our own ancestors, the human race, have been around for about six million years, the modern form of humans only evolved about 200,000 years ago. Civilization as we know it is only about 6,000 years old. Mere sixty eight years in the context of that immense sweep of billions of years, in today’s language, are far, far less than a nanosecond.
Sixty eight years, that is the age at which my dear friend Titus Silva passed away, on Tuesday, May 25 2021, having lived, in comparative terms, less than a nanosecond upon this earth. He lived those sixty eight years like a man empowered, influenced and guided by that ‘Spirit of Man’. Negativity, which shared no space in his simple mind, was not a word that existed in his vocabulary. Everything is possible, may be arduous and challenging, but never impossible.
I came into contact with Titus a long time ago, in fact, in the mid nineteen seventies. At the time I was working at Lever Brothers. Through an intermediary we made friends and the friendship, so bonded, lasted almost fifty years, nearly one half of a century, until he bade adieu just a couple of days ago! His plain, easy and compliant attitude towards life drew me quite closely to him and his ready and willing disposition at all times, whatever the specific circumstances be, and sharing whatever he had with his friends, held him in good stead right throughout his life.
What stood out among his qualities was his fierce loyalty to his friends and the masters he served. I am yet to come across a single person whose fidelity and faith to his fellowmen and master could match his own. Next to his own family, he served only one master: the Dissanayake Family, first Gamini and later Navin. Both Gamini and Navin had enormous respect and time for Titus. Never ever abrasive, Titus too reciprocated them with immense respect and patience, while sparing no room for any lack thereof with his fellowmen and women. He never lost an opportunity to crack a joke or pass a cutting hint. In short, he meant what he said and he said what he meant. Such species are rare indeed. Under Gamini Dissanayake, Titus was a Public Relations Officer and Navin appointed him, first as Chairman of Thrurusawiya Foundation and later as Special Advisor.
Titus’s journey had been one that was full of proverbial peaks and valleys. Contemporary American author Mark Helprin said “Perhaps passing through the gates of death is like passing quietly through the gate in a pasture fence. On the other side, you keep walking, without the need to look back. No shock, no drama, just the lifting of a plank or two in a simple wooden gate in a clearing. Neither pain, nor floods of light, nor great voices, but just the silent crossing of a meadow.” The passing away of Titus brings me to the sheer truthfulness of Helprin’s words.
Although it could be super hard to discard the countless memories that a friend such as Titus leaves behind, it was precisely that rare quality he displayed all along his journey of life- that one must move on even after the demise of a close friend, an associate or even a close relative- that is more overbearing than the very passing away.
Titus did not hold extraordinarily lofty positions; his achievements were modest, yet undoubtedly laudable, given the circumstances within which he made those accomplishments. The positions that were bestowed upon him by those who recognized his immeasurable capacity for hard work and fierce loyalty paved the way for him to lead a very comfortable life. He educated his only daughter, Netaji and she met her own life’s goal- she is an attorney-at-law and she exceeded the goals set by her parents, Titus and his loving wife Nilanthri. His way of life was simple, uncomplicated and exemplary. Gifted with a pair of hands that could master any complex process, mechanical or otherwise, his street-smartness came to his aid almost on each and every occasion when an obstacle hindered his traveling path. Such gifts are indeed extraordinary and uncommon and they do offer a quick and steady solution to many a human problem that confront us just about on a daily basis.
It is exceedingly challenging for me to write some of my fond memories of Titus; the many marvelous evenings I spent together with his family, sipping a drink, munching a delicious ‘bite’ which Titus himself prepared with the craft of a modern-day chef who employs the same patience and mind to each and every detail of his dish like a painter exhibits when stroking his brush on an empty canvas. His culinary skills were far too beyond an average chef of a six-star hotel.
Titus was diagnosed with that dreaded malady called cancer and he just could not overcome the cruel and insufferable effects of such a malignant (no pun intended), ailment. The shock is still within me. When his brother, Lal, called me while I was on my daily constitutional, I immediately rang up my wife, Ardni and she too could not simply believe her ears.
Death comes to everyone and it is the great equalizer and leveler of life. Titus left behind a most gracious Nilanthri, his wife and Netaji, his daughter, Dimuthu, his son-in-law and two beautiful granddaughters.
When death claims the life of a one that is close to you, the spectacle of life becomes more telling and penetrating. As The Enlightened One, Buddha said, ‘death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live’. Memories are many and time is too short indeed. Titus would not have wanted us to stagnate or dwell in those memories, however sweet and enchanting they could be. The unkind hands of death took him away from us, leaving behind kinder and gentler memories that will linger on for a long, long time within all he knew.
Yet, one must move on…
May Titus attain Nibbana