Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Dudley Senanayake - Remembering old times



By Charnika Imbulana
 
 
...An honourable politician
When a UNP-led coalition won power in 1965, he agreed to step down and hand over the Prime Ministership to C.P. de Silva as a mark of gratitude towards his service towards defeating the leftist coalition government in 1964. Such magnanimity! He was sworn in as the Prime Minister for a record fourth time on 25 March 1965, at which time he had the longest reign till 1970. However he lost the general elections in ’70 and virtually retired from politics thereafter.
My uncle, late P.C. Imbulana who served him as Deputy Agriculture Minister, sported a spontaneous smile on his face whenever he spoke of his dear friend Dudley. Now whenever I remember the stories my uncle related about his best friend to me, I can’t help but smile.
The two friends shared the same humour and innocent mischief. Their loud laughter would thunder the usual quietness of our ancestral house whenever he arrived, my grandma would recall. I could well imagine it when I now recall some of the stories, and my own vague remembrance of his infectious laugh.
When Dudley returned to Ceylon after his studies, his parents were keen that they should get their son ‘settled’ in marriage. Dudley was certainly the most eligible bachelor, hailing from one of the leading aristocratic families in the island.
Marriage brokers were assigned on a country wide search and the Senanayakes took their son to see several brides. One such visit was to an aristocratic walawwa off Balangoda. A sumptuous banquet was laid for the groom’s party and Dudley dug in with relish. There had been watalappan for dessert made from the choicest jaggery that Balangoda kitul palms produced. Dudley was seen helping himself to several servings of watalappan.
The pretty bride was dressed in a Kandyan osariya and bedecked in traditional jewellery. She was ideally suited and D.S. and Molly Senanayake were silently praying that their elder son would at least say yes to this proposal.
On the way back to Colombo, the parents posed the question: “So what do you think?”
“Hari shoak! Hari shoak” (excellent! excellent), exclaimed Dudley.
The parents much relieved said, “Oh we must not waste time in bringing Sirima home!”
By the mention of the name, Dudley asked, “Sirima?”
The parents responded: “Sirima is the name of the bride. Barnes Ratwatte Disawe’s daughter whom you just described as ‘hari shoak!’”
“Oh. I was commenting on the watalappan as being ‘hari shoak,’ not of the girl!”
The old Senanayake couple didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
One wonders if Dudley had said ‘yes’ to the girl Sirima instead of to the watalappan, how the course of history of this country would have changed.

As a responsible member of the fourth estate, I would always ask my uncle, are these stories all true?
My uncle would roar with laughter, until his cheeks turned pink, enjoying the relating of these stories but in all seriousness state Dudley was never known to be dishonest.
I did see Buddhhika Kurukularatne in his ‘Men and Memories’ also verifying the story with former Secretary General of Parliament, Sam Wijesinghe, which gives me more confidence now to state it in black and white.
He also had relished relating how, during his very first meal at Cambridge, a piece of meat on his plate did a pole vault to another diner’s plate some distance away, he had explained in all seriousness it happened due to a blunt knife kept for him to use. My uncle remembered to relate this when he watched with us the comedy ‘The Party,’ where a piece of chicken flies off the leading actor Peter Seller’s dish into the air and gets stuck on a hair- do of a woman.
Dudley loved photography, wildlife, and cricket and golf. He was a man of impeccable integrity. Food was a subject of discussion right throughout his life, as he was often jokingly told and known to have quite an appetite. Although Dudley acknowledged even that with good humour, his good friend, my uncle would drily say that he just enjoyed his food. But it was his stomach that gave trouble to his last breath. When he died he was only 62 years, gone so early, a life that was so worthy.
I quote two passages from speeches made in Parliament by two eminent Parliamentarians who knew him well upon his passing away. The former had political differences with him and they constantly locked horns and was livid when a “ginger group” within the party was formed by Dudley (of which my uncle was one) but yet JR held Dudley with deep affection and respect, his emotions took the better of him, at Dudley’s passing.
J.R. Jayewardene: “Here was a colleague who touched the deep sea of reverence in a wider world in our country than possibly any other person in its long history. If a man could draw that affection and goodwill, he has a claim to be known as one of its greatest sons.”
Gamini Dissanayake: “Mr. Dudley Senanayake should be remembered as he really was in life – a simple man with his share of human frailties, minus the airs and props that accompany high position, and a man who by his simple ways constantly reminded us of the truth of the saying, ‘A truly extraordinary man is in the final analysis a truly ordinary man.’ The iron heel of totalitarianism never appealed to him. The arrogance of power was not a part of his constitution. He was a true democrat who only believed in the democratic approach towards the solution of ills. Trade unionists, political opponents, power lobbies and agitators of diverse hues and colours will bear testimony to his spirit of democratic toleration and moderation.”
“Good night sweet prince,” said JR in his fitting final farewell.

The writer likes to remember him in this tribute with her own line: Greatness was thrust on Dudley Shelton Senanayake. And he lived to be great.



No comments:

Post a Comment