A true pride for Sri Lankan women


In March 2000 when the civil war was at its peak, tragedy struck Nayana Ashchariya Peiris Jayakody, a product of Devi Balika Vidyalaya, a diploma holder in English from the Warwick University, a teller in an international bank in Sri Lanka, when a claymore bomb exploded at Castle Street when she was driving home after work. It was reported that 49 were killed and many injured from this brutal LTTE attack. Ashchariya had been rushed to the accident service where she had not known what happened when she had recovered after three days. Apart from becoming totally blind she has had a fractured leg having to be confined to a wheelchair for a few years.

She recollects that she has had many friends and mourners in her hospital room that even had no space to accommodate them. She relates that gradually these sympathizers had diminished and eventually she had been made to remain isolated. To add salt to the wound Ashchariya’s parents who were well to do had abandoned her. Hence, she has had to navigate through life’s wobbly roads. It is learnt that Ashchariya’s parents and relatives had discriminated her for choosing the Arts stream for Advanced Level against their wishes. Hence Ashchariya had to find a way to live on her own by renting out a premise, the main constraint was she had no income. With the help of unknown persons, she had traversed through this long period of about twelve years living all by herself. She had confessed that on certain days she has had only a biscuit and a plantain for the whole day, and on some days has had nothing. A girl who had sympathized with her on her way to office has given her a lunch parcel prepared by her mother to Ashchariya. In this context Ashchariya had to find a way to see her way out of darkness.

She has had innate talent for designing clothes. In fact, while in school a colleague who also had talent had designed their own clothes as a pastime, but never had practiced beyond. At that time, she had not known how competent and powerful that capability as a fashion designer would be. She believes after she lost her sight, God had given the opportunity to enhance this capacity which she was unaware of, to make full use of it. As any designer she had been able to grasp, to visualize differently. She confesses that she cannot copy designs of others as she could not see. She had been inspired by nature. She had recollected everything she had observed in fashion designing before she lost her sight, grabbing it into her mind. She from memory imagines colours from earth, sky and from everything God has created. Ashchariya confesses that with eyesight one makes of or in fact depend on technology for everything. Now there are equipment for drawing sketches and various other tech-based applications too. But people don’t make use of their brain power when they are dependent on technology. As a result, the brain capacity gets erased. If there’s a power failure, people won’t be able to do anything! Therefore, as the saying goes, too much of anything is good for nothing. So, in her case she depends on her brain capacity for everything which she had developed over a decade. Therefore, she does all her calculations, drawings and other exercises by her brain, while others do them on their computers. 

To date Ashchariya has designed all her clothes.

 She adds that challenges are immense. None of her relations or friends were there to support her when she needed their support the most. But today, after winning the award for the best "fashion designer", she receives telephone calls asking if she remember them, to which she wonders what shameless people they are. Hence for her to cope with such people is one of the challenges. She says she was blind, but they weren’t. They would have seen her when walking on the road while being assisted by an unknown three-wheel driver. Where were they then? She didn’t have a house to stay nor did she have a job, and those who supported her were people she never knew. Hence, it was a challenge to stand up on her own. To date, she has never received a call from her mother to see whether she is dead or alive. It’s the family she had entrusted upon when she had a fall, but when they abandoned her which was quite difficult to bear. Ashchariya has challenged herself to love this world back instead of hating it. She has decided to help people who have fallen in their lives. She says many people have jealous mindsets. They try to have resentments against those who succeed. Ashchariya is now a mother, a good housewife, who does all household work on her own, an iron woman indeed.

Ashchariya the only Sri Lankan listed among BBC’s 100 Most Inspiring women for 2019. She is now a reputed fashion designer, personality development, corporate and leadership trainer. In year 2017 she was one among the 10 most "Remarkable" women in Sri Lanka, which for her is a privilege and a humble honour. All Sri Lankan’s should be proud of her and wish her well in all her endeavours.



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