The Dias Jayasinghes are etched deeply in memory as sons of Galle who were committed to schooling its generations in cricket and in history, while yet aiding all and sundry. At St Aloysius College in the mid-1950s I had the good fortune to have Marcus Dias-Jayasinghe as my coach – a gentleman figure who nurtured all of us. I then encountered DD Jayasinghe as an opponent on cricket-field playing for the Education Department against University of Ceylon teams.
Marcus was a knowledgeable lover of the cricketing game and imparted his advice without fanfare or bombast. DD was perhaps a more outspoken gentleman who was good enough at cricket to contest spots in Ceylonese Elevens of the 1950s before his knowledge of the game was transferred to a spot in the Selection Committees vested with the responsibility of selecting Ceylon’s international squads in the early 1960s.
I lost touch with the Dias Jayasinghes in the course of my career – with our family’s move to Adelaide serving to accentuate the distancing. Then, at some point in the 2010s, good fortune brought Ananda into my field of Sri Lankan affairs via his assiduous work on the history of Richmond College – where his deep interest seconded the work of Joe Simpson and thus embellished the presentations in Thuppahi. I was fortunate to be in Sri Lanka when a function at Kollupitiya featured Ananda as a honourable recipient of awards. This link brought me rewards in the shape of hospitality extended to me by both Ananda and his brother Ranjan when I visited Galle on subsequent occasions.
It was Ranjan who linked me with a hire-car driver named Chaminda Piyaratne for my return trip to Colombo from Galle on the 31st July 2017. As it happened, Piyaratne is not an ordinary fella. From a large family in the Baddegama area, he had served in the Sri Lanka Army’s special forces for many years, been wounded twice and yet survived before retiring to take up the taxi/touring trade with a vehicle of his own. I was staying at a hotel in Unawatuna in July and as soon as I learnt of Piyaratne’s history from Ranjan, I invited him to my room and tape-interviewed him on his experiences. This interview-record will eventually enter the Archives somewhere.
Let me highlight its potential by providing one juicy and penetrating “tit-bit.” This sound-bite was not recorded at Unawatuna, but during my taxi-ride to Colombo via the expressway. Here, let me stress that during my decades of investigation in Sri Lanka conversations with taxi-cab drivers and/or passengers (when I was driving) have often generated profound ethnographic data. That is, the ongoing togetherness during the course of one-to-one exchanges — even that among ‘strangers ‘– within a car tends to create trust and generate revelation.
On this occasion, as a passenger on the front-seat I turned my tablet recorder on at one point when I was being driven to Colombo and revived my interview with Piyaratne. One leading question ran like this: “Piyaratne, you had many years’ experience in fighting the Tigers. Given that background, what can you tell me about their strengths and capacities.
Chaminda’s answer was quick, terse and to the point ….. [and totally unexpected] ….
“The Tigers had one leader for thirty or so years.”
YES, a surprising answer. More political assessment than military judgment …… or, rathe,r a political/military answer. Spot-on. This was grassroots acumen.
Last year, 2020, I was marooned in Sri Lanka by Mr Covid,when on my way to Galle to watch Sri Lanka at cricket. I was comfortably ensconced at my sister’s house in Wellawatte for much of the time. Exchanges of mail and telephone chats with both Ananda and his brother Ranjan were among the significant event during this period. Ananda was ailing and suffering. I was not in a position to offer him succour. Indeed, the benefits flowed from Dias Jayasinghe to Roberts rather than the other way. As ever vigorous and amaible, Ranjan dropped in at Hampden Lane Wellawatte to discuss some issues. ….
….. and, then, when I was able to secure a flight back to Australia in mid-September 2020, Ranjan insisted on picking me and serving as my amiable chauffeur all the way to Katunayake Airport. This was a form of icing on the cake: former Richmondites and Mahindians had been leading figures in battling my medical ailments in that spell in Lanka while several had participated in convivial gatherings at Galle and Colombo, so Ranjan’s parting gift was icing on a Gallillean cake.
Ultimately, my friendship and interactions with both Ananda and Ranjan arose from my reverential links with their pater, Marcus Jayasinghe –a Mahindian cricketer from yesteryear who coached St Aloysius when I played for them in the years 1955-57. A gentleman to the core and an intelligent non-abrasive father figure, his guidance was much appreciated. I cannot better this act of requiem for Ananda in more reverential ways than proceeding to doff my hat to Marcus by posting a picture of him with one of the best teams Aloysius has produced, that led by Anwer Jawath and coached by Marcus.
Ananda Ariyaratne: “A Rich History of Richmond College, Galle,” 19 March 2015, https://thuppahis.com/2015/03/19/a-rich-history-richmond-college-galle/
- The Forgotten History of Richmond College rolls the Years Back,” 19 March 2014, https://thuppahis.com/2014/03/19/the-forgotten-history-of-richmond-rolls-the-years-back-courtesy-of-ananda-dias-jayasinha/
- “Ananda Jayasinghe’s Richmond wins a State Literary Award,” https://thuppahis.com/2015/10/25/ananda-jayasinghes-richmond-wins-a-state-literary-award/
- Simon Meeds with Joe Simpson: “Revd Small of Richmond: Educationist Extraordinary,” 13 June 2016, https://thuppahis.com/2018/06/13/revd-small-of-richmond-educationist-extraordinary/
 Note Meeds with Simpson 2016.
 A substantial stock of archival material, including tape-recorded interviews with public servants and politicians acquired during the Robert sOral History Project of the years 1965-69, are now available at the National Library Services Board in Colombo. See https://thuppahis.com/2020/12/04/the-roberts-oral-history-project-in-the-1960s-origins-outcomes/#more-47446