10 January 2023

The integrity of Nadeesha Rajapaksha

['The Morning Inspection' is the title of a column I wrote for the Daily News from 2009 to 2011, one article a day, Monday through Saturday. This is a new series. Scroll down for previous articles]   

Udadumbara, literally the upper reaches of a mist-heavy region, holds many secrets and may they all remain hidden for the preservation of the sacred often requires it. When the unholy unveil, temples get desecrated and the reign of the profane begins.

Not too long ago, a story escaped from those lofty heights and made its way down slow roads. It is the story of a family of four, Ravindra Madushanka Rajapaksha, his wife Nadeesha and their two children. This is that story, as related to me last Thursday by Rajan Asirwatham, renowned financial and taxation specialist and a legend in the business world. 

‘I got a call from a lady. She said her name was Nadeesha Rajapaksha. She told me that her husband had been diagnosed with Leukaemia and that surgery would cost around 10 million rupees. I asked her why she had called me and she said that someone had said I might be able to help.

‘She said that I didn’t have to send any money to her directly because the Nawaloka Hospital had set up an account for the purpose. She sent me all the relevant information related to her husband’s condition. She told me that up to this point, the contributions had only been what the temple in the village had managed to mobilise from the villagers.’

This was around Christmas. So he had called up friends and relatives and told them the story. He had requested them not to send him gifts but instead to deposit money to the account that Nadeesha had told him about.

‘Then one day she called me and urged me to tell my friends not to contribute any further. Apparently it was now too late for a bone marrow transplant to have any effect. In other words, her husband, Ravindra Madushanka, would not make it.

‘I reminded her that she had two small children and that the money could come of use. What I suggested to her was to put the 1.5 million rupees or so that had been collected into a fund so that she could use the interest for expenses.

‘She hadn’t thought it through. All she said was that she had got her husband discharged from the Maharagama Hospital and had brought him back to Mediriya, Udadumbara.  He was not undergoing native Sinhala treatment.’

Ravindra, when I called him a few minutes ago (0778162215) seemed to be in good spirits, given the circumstances. The doctors had informed him that Chemotherapy had not had any effect and that further rounds of chemotherapy would make him even weaker.

He hasn’t reported to work at the Road Development Authority in a year. They manage, probably, with what Nadeesha earns as a Grama Niladhari in Mediriya, Udadumbara area.

‘Even Sinhala Beheth is costly. It is expensive traveling to Kandy and back for treatment. The  treatment includes a special diet. That’s expensive too,’ he said.

When I inquired about the children, he said one was six and the other five. He said they need to get the younger girl into a school somehow.  Nadeesha (0769134515) seemed strong, despite the desperate nature of the circumstances she finds herself in; partly resigned to what might be called the inevitable, partly clinging on to hope.

Their story moved Mr Asirwatham. He was also moved obviously by her integrity, especially at a time when economic difficulties bludgeon all norms of civility and honesty.  Indeed, even in happier times, there are those who prey on the unfortunate and desperate, who have made a profession of raising funds for those in need of urgent and expensive surgery.  

I don’t know where No. 88/3 Mediriya, Udadumbara, is located. Somewhere in the hills but not too far from the main road, above the famed hairpin bends, Ravindra said. Their story is not the first and will not be the last about helplessness that descends upon families like that of Raveendra Rajapaksha.  Ailments such as the one he suffers come without warning. They wreck households and tear apart families. Stories are never done when sad chapters end. They are typically followed by sorrows and challenges, trials and tribulations of a different order.

We cannot predict what tomorrow holds for Nadeesha and her children.  Another name, another story that tarried awhile in some corner of a land called Public Awareness, perhaps. All I know is that a text escaped the mists of Dumbara. It spoke of courage. It reached a kind-hearted man in Colombo. It spoke of rare integrity. Enough to shower merit on Raveendra and his family. In this lifetime and throughout their sojourn through sansara which I wish, in the name of whatever good karma I may have accumulated in this and other lifetimes lived and still to come, to be brief.

Other articles in this series:

Signatures in the seasons of love

To Maceo Martinet as he flies over rainbows

Sirith, like pirith, persist

Fragrances that will not be bottled 

Colours and textures of living heritage

Countries of the past, present and future

A degree in creative excuses

Books launched and not-yet-launched

The sunrise as viewed from sacred mountains

The ways of the lotus

Isaiah 58: 12-16 and the true meaning of grace

The age of Frederick Algernon Trotteville

Live and tell the tale as you will

Between struggle and cooperation

Of love and other intangibles

Neruda, Sekara and literary dimensions

The universe of smallness

Paul Christopher's heart of many chambers

Calmness gracefully cascades in the Dumbara Hills

Serendipitous amber rules the world

Continents of the heart The allegory of the slow road