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Saturday, October 11, 2014

A Tribute to Priya (Gunaratna) de Silva

Priya's funeral took place at the General Cemetery, Kanatte this evening in the presence of a large gathering. I thought this is a good time to post the following Appreciation written by ND.

By Nihal Amerasekera 

Priya entered the Faculty of Medicine in Colombo in September 1962.  She was educated at Visakha Vidyalaya, Bambalapitiya the institution that has produced ladies who have contributed much to Sri Lankan society since it was founded in 1917.  

In the Faculty many of us were mesmerised by her graceful ways and stylish good looks. Like the rest of us Priya suffered the ‘indignities’ of rags, signatures and the revisals  in the “Block” and took it all in her stride. All through those gruelling years in the Faculty she conducted herself with dignity and was well liked by everyone. In all those years her thoughtful kindness and simplicity shone through. 

In 1967 we met again in Kurunegala doing those arduous tasks of internship. We worked together in the Childrens Ward  with the Paediatrician Dr Chandra de S Wijesundera (who later married our batchmate Manel Ratnavibhushana). There I got to know Priya more closely sharing the on-calls and other onerous tasks of a busy unit. While at work she had the great ability to remain calm and in control.  She showed tremendous kindness, courtesy and patience towards the children in her care and also to their worried parents.  I recall Priya had great empathy for the poor simple rural folk of the wanni who sought our help. She remained a reliable, unpretentious and hardworking colleague throughout.  The passion integrity and professionalism Priya showed during the internship was a beacon for us all.  She was indeed a very special person. 

Priya was witty and warm and had a tremendous sense of humour. Despite the hard work we shared amusing anecdotes of day to day life in the house officer’s quarters and laughed a lot. What was most striking about Priya was that she never had a harsh word for anyone. 

We said our goodbyes in June 1968 and parted. She left Kurunegala for a job in Colombo and finally found her niche in Family Planning.  There again she showed her professional skill, expertise and attention to duty. Until her retirement she became one of the king-pins and driving forces of that organisation.
Interns at GH, Kurunegala - Seated 3rd from left is Priya 
      Author is standing 5th from left          

Priya married Chula De Silva , an Engineer, and had two daughters Sharini & Anjali.  Her extended family gave her tremendous joy and satisfaction. At this time of grief our heart-felt sympathies go out to her immediate family and friends. 

Priya showed much enthusiasm for the batch reunions and get-togethers.  She took it upon herself to organise such events and remained a live wire throughout those proceedings. 

I never saw Priya for many decades until we met by sheer chance in the lobby of the Cinnamon Grand Hotel in September 2012. She had come to take ‘Patas’ Ratnesar for tea to her own home. We had a bear hug and a long chat about old times. She called me to join them for tea but sadly I had another engagement. Then she looked lovely and charming as ever.  When we said goodbye I somehow felt this would be for the last time and I was overcome by emotion. At the time I knew about her long battle with cancer which she had accepted with characteristic grace. Priya endured her final illness with much courage and great dignity. I feel greatly privileged to have known her and worked with her. 

May she find the ultimate Bliss of Nirvana



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