The Sangakkaras Erudite & Charitable: At Home and Abroad

An Accidental Encounter ….  and An Illuminating Outcome

When I was in Sri Lanka at some point in the late 1990s on research work, my cricketing links with such individuals as PI Pieris and Michael Tissera encouraged me to take in some of the international cricket matches taking place in the capital city of Colombo. On one occasion I witnessed a match at the Khettarama Stadium where Sri Lanka A took on a West Indian side. I was in the BCCSL section at midwicket where the spectators were few and quite interspersed. I heard an elderly gentleman behind me explaining some of the finer points of the unfolding match to his wife beside him. At one point I turned round and amiably indicated that he understood the finer points of cricket. It turned out that he was a venerable lawyer from Kandy named Kshemananda Sangakkara. Kshema and Kumari Sangakkara were watching their son Kumar playing for the A team.

This amiable set of exchanges proved fortuitous in several ways. I was able to scrounge a lift back to Wellawatte and avoid the auto-rickshaw ‘haul’ that was my mode of transport. More vitally, it provided me with an academic goldmine when – much later and down the track – I discovered that the Sangakkaras had acquired the urban ancestral property owned by Hannadige Louis Pieris who was a younger brother of Jeronis Pieris – the centre of a historical work I had produced in 1976 after discovering a set of Jeronis Pieris’s letters.[1]

This chance encounter bore even richer fruit. Sometime later, when I was in Kandy for a spell, I phoned the Sangakkaras and made an appointment to visit them. It was a magical encounter. Their house overlooking the Kandy Lake from the eastern side was an aesthetic goldmine and the tale of its restoration linked three families who, by happenchance, were within my ‘compass’.[2]

By that stage, I note here, my cricketing affiliations had led me into amiable friendship with Kumar Sangakkara himself both in Adelaide and Colombo.[2] The SL Cricket team coached by Moody and managed by Michael Tissera had been located in Adelaide for a spell in early 2006 and I was among the Sri Lankans involved in felicitating their stay in town.[3]

Needless to say, Kumar Sangakkara has sustained the influence of his parental heritage and his educational roots in Trinity College: he reads books; he invests time in charitable projects of all sorts; and speaks in erudite manner – as witnessed in the masterly peroration delivered on the occasion of the Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture in mid-2011.

 Sanga feted at St. Patrick’s College, Jaffna, when he and Yehali visited in April 2011 and Kumar delivered a peroration

That he was chosen as President of the MCC in 2019, “the first non-British person to the position since the club was founded in 1787,” is a signal honour that befits his background and versatility.

This pictorial venture, therefore, imprints Kumar, Yehali and the Sangakkaras in the blue, blue skies.

Yahali and ‘entourage’ at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel in Colombo – Pix by Roberts
The Sangas relaxing at a hotel in Kalutara-Pix by Roberts

BIBLIOGRAPHY

END NOTES

[1] This work was produced by Hansa Publishers. It has now been reproduced as a coffee-table book in high quality fashion as the result of the endeavours of Shiran De Soysa –see Facets of Ceylon History through the Letters of Jeronis Pieris, Colombo, 2020.

Louis  Jeronis Pieris

[2] As it happens, the architect who restored this house was one Krishnapillai whose son, Sivam happens to be a good friend living now in Adelaide with his lovely wife Kasthuri and their two children.

[3] When we met briefly in his hotel room, Kumar immediately purchased a copy of the tome People Inbetween (1989) which I had authored with Percy-Colin-Thome and Ismeth Raheem.

[4]   In a remarkable match at Adelaide Oval Sri Lanka defeated Australia after scoring 274 for 8 and then restricting the Aussies t0 252 all out. Guess what: the Man of the Match was Kumar Chokshanada Sangakkara.

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6 responses to “The Sangakkaras Erudite & Charitable: At Home and Abroad

  1. Sanath jayatilaka

    Get in touch with 01 the owners of Thilanka Hotel, Gunawardanas and they can add to your knowledge of the Sangakkaras.
    02 Vidoosha Nathavithrana who did an interview of the mother father and son Kumar. Contact No.0718334334.

    I had to repair Sangakkara’s car which crashed into a lamp post at Koswatta Junction.

  2. EMAIL NOTE from SUMANE IYER in New South Wales, 21 January 2020:

    That is indeed a signal honour for Kumar to be President of the MCC and be the only non British. What? no Aussie got this gong?

    Thanks for educating me …” SUMANE

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