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Remembrance - Ranjani Mendis



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Neither the name nor remembering her has me thinking of her as just Ranjani Mendis. Rather do I always think of her as Ranjani - devoted wife and mother. She was devoted to Nimal and was the perfect companion to him for 33 years, being together in good times and not so good, in sickness as in health. She was a loving mother to Paul-Marie, doting on him and lavishing care and concern on him as an adult just as she did when he was a baby.


Ranjani was a good friend too. Many will vouch for this .I got to know this family comparatively recently, say about seven years ago when Nimal e-mailed me to say he agreed fully with an article I had written to the Sunday Island about the quirks and foibles of us Sinhalese. He wrote me from Les Paradis in the Charente ( South West France) and I was deeply gratified that an admired musician and song writer like him had the generosity of heart to write to this freelancer. Who did not thrill to his compositions: Kiss Kiss Kiss and Kandyan Express. That was way back in the 60s when we young folk glued ourselves to the radio to get absorbed in Top of the Week Program which Nimal topped more than once and held the position for many weeks. Of course we were later enthralled by the magic, (and I use that word deliberately) by Nimal’s Master Sir, Ganga Addara, Nim Him Sewva and Run Tikiri Sin.


Ranjani also had generosity of heart which she shared with others. She and I took to each when we started telephoning long distance and e-mailing when they were in the Charente and later moved back to London. I met them on their holidays in Sri Lanka and we once enjoyed a holiday in Kandy staying at the Suisse Hotel - me at their invitation. Then the family shifted to Sri Lanka to settle down here, and our friendship further firmed.


We shared the devastation Nimal and Paul-Marie felt when Ranjani suddenly fell ill - a ruptured tumour near the kidneys with septicemia setting in - and died four days later. Nimal was inconsolable, but Paul-Marie comforted the father while making all funeral arrangements. He was a tower of strength in this sudden crisis. Time will somewhat mitigate their sorrow but Ranjani’s death has left a void in their lives and a great loss in ours, her friends and family.


Ranjani was the youngest in a family of eight, the daughter of Charles Jonathan Lokuge and Irene Mildred Lokuge. Her grandfather, Mudaliyar D.A.L. Perera working with H.C.P. Bell was the first to copy the Sigiriya frescoes which are in the Colombo museum. Two sisters, Charmaine and Erna, and a brother, Noel, survives her.


Ranjani, perhaps, neglected signs of illness. She was a homemaker, supportive wife and concerned mother so she gave little time to herself. She was also totally against conventional medicine and constant visits to doctors; hence perhaps her sudden death. It should not be treated as untoward though shocking. It was surely the way she would have wanted to go - with the least bother to her family and no prolonged illness.


The service at Ranjani’s funeral was evocative of the finality of death and separation. But the mourning hearts of those present was warmed by being given a glimpse of the immensity and depth of love shared between Nimal and Ranjani. He sang the first song he had composed for her, composed a few nights of his first meeting with her and the last, composed for her two week’s before her death, with no premonition of it whatsoever. Nimal had been introduced to Ranjani by his sister Bernadeen. They were great friends. Nimal told me that he had a bout of hepatitis and once he got better was a pain to all, getting bored being in bed. That’s when Bernadeen introduced Ranjani and he immediately fell in love with her - no wonder since she was a beautiful girl with charm. He had gone to the beach on a late evening, sat on a stone, perhaps saw her face in the smooth sea and composed his song. The translation to Sinhala has been a great hit with our people - Nim Him Sewva sung by Amaradeva for the late Manik Sandrasagara’s film Sitadevi.


When did I meet you, my love,


Was it yesterday, today or tomorrow


When did I kiss you my love


Was it yesterday today or tomorrow


Only in time eternal I’ll know


This love is it real is it true


Was it yesterday today or tomorrow


That we met my love me and you


When did I miss you my love


Was it yesterday today or tomorrow


I’ll say au revoir my love


For yesterday today and tomorrow


The last of five songs dedicated to her speaks of looking out of a window.


Sitting by a window, gazing at a rainbow


Suddenly a songbird came into my view


The melody that I heard, I strung into these few words


A manuscript, a serenade, a song of love for you


This is all that I could say, I’ll remind you every day


Nothing more and nothing less, written on this sheet


It will filter thru’ from me, to you in all eternity


Gently it will come to you, with the sound of my heartbeat


Only just a few words, and the tune sung by a songbird


Only just a few words, to tell you how I feel


Only just a few words, a perfect phrase you’ve always heard


I love you are the only words, every lover deals


A tune is all around me, the songbird’s haunting melody


There is nothing new to write, yet it’s like a symphony


Even in this fading light, as the day turns into night


My love will come into your heart, and there it will always be


Death is devastating, leaves the dearly loved ones inconsolable, but the thought that must remain in mind is that a life should be celebrated over and above a death being mourned. Ranjani’s life was full of love, companionship, generosity, piety and goodness to people. Thus it needs must be celebrated, more than we mourn her leaving us.


Nanda P Wanasundera


Paul-marie was just a few days old. We took him with our friends Anuruddha and Carmen Ratwatte to the Mahaweli river in Kandy. He was in his basket and Wopsy our dog guarded him while we had a dip in the waters.


Ranjani wrote this for him.


LITTLES


Sun spots pattern on blue chintz


He sleeps our little one


Cradled in blue cane


Fairy lights through rush mats light his all


He sleeps at peace little fist on mouth


Unaware of his playmates in the sun


All eyes and ears


Spaniel Wopsy looks on


Not joining in, but at her place with littles


Who sleeps on, to the gush of cool waters on grey rocks


This second poem was written by Ranjani for her mother but its a poem that both Paul-Marie and I echo in our remembrance of her.


DEDICATION


I remember you


Never still


Busying around the house


Silent for our needs


With selfless spoiling


I see your hands


With brush and paint


With reel and thread


With hook and lace


Active in your toiling


Now you sit in quiet repose


Your thoughts reflecting


By your side, I sit,


Regretting........


She wrote many more poems, some were published in a magazine in London and also reproduced in France. She hated war and violence and her heart wept for children affected by war. From 1985 to 1995 Ranjani and Nimal went into documentary production. They were the first Sri Lankans to have a major film on British TV on the ethnic crisis. "Shattered Pearl." They also filmed "Blessed are the Poor" covering South India and London and "Water Water Everywhere" in Bangladesh.


 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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