Tulsi Karunanayake: Sombre Appreciations from THE CEYLANKAN Circle in Australia

Sumane & Rohini iyer:   Tulsi Karunanayake – remembered with love

Metta, wish for all beings to be happy, Karuna, compassion, Muditha, unselfish joy particularly in the good fortune of others, and Upekkha, equanimity – the four immeasurables in Buddhism all came together harmoniously in the person of Tulsi Karunanayake.

We have known Tulsi for over thirty years initially seeking her skill in making fabric and thread into a perfect garment, a joy to behold, delivered in her characteristic self effacing manner with a smile that tells all. In later years, when we got to know her better within the Ceylon Society of Australia we got to see other facets of her that were to leave an indeli­ble impression on us. As a gracious hostess at many of their lunches, Tulsi matched her skills with needle and thread with her culinary skills. A dish among the many she produced on every occasion, we remember most, is the simple fried dried fish (karola), Hugh’s favourite done to perfection. It was so because she was doing it for her Aiya – her best friend and partner for over half a century. We called them the “Golden Couple”.

A quiet achiever behind the scenes, Tulsi gave of her best at our regular CSA meetings. The role of the President’s wife came with commensurate responsibilities and she carried it with great aplomb and quiet dignity. Usual mishaps that can occur at such events were handled with a gentle smile which required no words but meant:

“no problems I will fix it!”

We began this appreciation by reference to our shared cultural and religious background, as Buddhists. But Tulsi had many friends of other persua­sions and beliefs including Rohini. Without fear of contradiction it could be said, in her company we all walked with a Saint in our midst.

Rohini recalls: One of my lasting memories is, on my birthday Tulsi never failed to surprise me pleasantly with a phone call to wish me even after she moved to Melbourne and not long after was sadly diagnosed as ill. I felt blessed and felt that she was trying to reach me through layers of fond and misty memories – that she remembered me was most important to me.

Tulsi was a platinum friend and though we miss her, lives on in our memory as well as in our children’s memories as one who definitely enriched our lives with her beautiful and serene presence.

Hugh, Harsha, Sumal and Dilukshi, your loss is im­measurable. But you all are immensely rich from having had the fortune to be nurtured by a Saint a Bodhisatva.

May she attain Nibbana.

Sumane and Rohini Iyer, Young NSW 2594, 15 January 2022 …… Sumane was Editor of The Ceylankan for 7 years)


‘Tulsi-‘ an appreciation from Chandra Senaratne (former Social Convenor of the Ceylon Society of Australia)

“As one lamp lights, another nor grows less. So nobleness enkindleth nobleness” -James Russell Lowell.

It was a privilege to meet Tulsi, for the first time, at the inaugural meeting of the Ceylon Society of Australia, where I was elected Social Convenor. Her genuine loving and caring disposition is indelibly etched in my mind.

One of my duties was to liaise with members who express a desire to bring some finger food for the social which follows the talk. At the first general meet­ing, I noticed that when Hugh and Tulsi arrived, Tulsi instead of socialising with a number of her friends who had come for the meeting did a ‘bee line’ to the kitchen. She was seen sorting out the finger food, as and when they were being brought in by the members, and was kept busy until the meeting commenced.

About half an hour before the end of the meeting she would ‘tip toe’ out of the hall into the kitchen to warm some items and to arrange the finger food in a presentable fashion. She would also replenish the dishes, as and when required. After that, we would see her making the teas and coffees. The next task was the clearing of the table and to do the washing up. ln this work, she was assisted by a few other ladies. Tulsi’s organising abilities and altruistic nature were apparent to all concerned.

Tulsi’s wonderful nature and the care she showed for others was displayed when Tulsi, accom­panied by Hugh, walked to my home on the morning of the funeral of my wife Marlene. She volunteered to assist in the food preparation, which was for 100 members of the congregation expected to arrive after the church service for the ‘wake’ at my home. When I did not see her in church, I made enquiries and was told that she returned to my home to complete the work she had undertaken.

When I decided to form a Royal College Old Boy’s, Senior’s Group (with spouses included), I received the wholehearted co-operation of both Hugh and Tulsi. Their 100% attendance particularly encour­aged the spouses to attend.

I have also been fortunate to have been in­vited for dinner, on a number of occasions where Tulsi displayed her culinary skills.

“She walks in beauty like the night of cloudless climes and starry skies And all that’s best of dark and bright Meet in her aspect and her eyes.” – Lord Byron.

Tulsi, may the goodness you meted out to others be returned to you tenfold. Rest in peace, in the lush and verdant valleys of life hereafter.

*****  ****

Amal Wahab remembers a kind and gentle soul in 1971

Most people living in Sri Lanka remember 1971 as the year of the JVP Insurrection. However, I remember that year as the time I met one of the kindest, gentlest ladies – TULSI KARUNANAYAKE.

Tulsi and “Uncle” Hugh had moved to a place in Wellawatte, next-door to my best friend Travis Victoria. Travis and I were in school at that time and used to meet almost daily after school.

Tulsi would greet us with a lovely smile, never too busy or proud to say “Hi” to two school­boys, one sitting on his bicycle and the other standing nearby, next to Tulsi’s gate chatting about the next important rugger or cricket match.

Invariably Tulsi would be our only specta­tor when Travis, his siblings and I playedBadminton, using Tulsi’s garden as one half of the court, the gate as the net and the Victoria’s garden as the other half of the court. After a game of Badminton, we would see Tulsi sitting at her front door step waiting patiently for Uncle Hugh to return from work. Uncle Hugh when passing Travis and me on his walk to their front door, would always greet us and sometimes join in the debate of the evening: who was a better cricketer etc.

Years went by and I next met Tulsi and Hugh in Sydney, in the early 90’s and only one thing had changed – I now dropped the “uncle” when address­ing Hugh. By this time Tulsi had three children, who had inherited the best qualities of Hugh and Tulsi. She remained the same kind, gentle and humble lady I had known as a school child. She was a fantastic cook and entertained us with the most sumptuous meals.

We miss Tulsi but we are thankful for the memories that we have of this lovely lady…… Amal Wahab

Farewell to Tulsi: Dr Srilal and Savitri Fernando

It was in the 1990’s that Savitri and I had the fortune of meeting with Hugh and Tulsi. It was a common interest in Ceylon postcards that brought Hugh and myself together through a mutual contact Chris Put­tock. We floated the idea of forming a small group of people with similar interests, who could meet from time to time. It was before the time of email and com­munication was by telephone or Australia Post.

On a visit to Sydney, Hugh and Tulsi invited us for lunch. Savitri and I connected with them easily, and led to meeting with them whenever we were in Sydney or they were in Melbourne. While Hugh and I talked of books, postcards , people and wherever the conversation led us, Savitri and Tulsi had equally important discussions about dress, food, and whatever else that interested them. The conversation was never boring and lunch would end with afternoon tea and virtually till the sun got tired and sunk into the deep blue.

It was clear that Tulsi was not interested in the ephemera like collectibles that filled Hugh’s and my existence. However she was very supportive of what Hugh did. Hers was of a higher order where ma­terial things did not matter that much. Her nature was such that she was gentle and helpful to everyone and this pervaded her actions and speech. Right thought, right speech, right action did not have to be cultivated by her. It came naturally and without effort to her. No wonder Hugh loved her dearly.

She would call him Hugh Aiya and we thought that this was a form of endearment, till we realised later that he was actually her cousin Aiya she had known all her life. Later in life when the illness was beginning to show up, she became very quiet. However her gentle manner and composed countenance never left her. She would quietly talk to Savitri in the kitchen or dining room while Hugh enjoyed a drink in the sitting room. Without fail she would invoke a blessing Budu Saranayi many times.

After they moved to Melbourne, Tulsi would quietly sit at the window, immersed in her word puzzle book while Hugh and I talked of mice and men.

Savitri and I are very fortunate to know Tulsi who was kind, gentle, sincere and the loveliest person we have known.


Remembering Tulsi: Michael Rohan Sourjah

I came home after work one day about 20 years or more ago and the landline rang and I had a conversa­tion with a very rude telemarketer. The phone rang immediately afterwards. The guy on the other end of the line was Hugh and he asked me a question, which I can’t remember. I rudely told him I was not inter­ested and Hugh said sorry for disturbing me. But then I realised he was talking about Ceylon books and I apologised and we got into a conversation which has become a strong friendship until now.

My dad had collected antique and vintage books about Ceylon/Sri Lanka since the 1970s and I initially bought books for him. But then I became a collector too. And Hugh was always my competitor in buying those old books. Hugh was the driving force in starting the Ceylon Society of Australia and our first meeting was held in his house. That was when I met his wonderful wife Tulsi. We have always kept in con­tact and Tulsi always cared for me. At all the Ceylon Society meetings I attended, Tulsi was the first to greet me. And she always showed me what she had cooked for the guests and asked me to sample that food.

Kids came along and, regrettably, I could no longer attend the Ceylon Society meetings. Dancing classes, soccer, basketball, baseball, netball and school events took over my life.

But my parents had migrated to Sydney by that time and they had many parties at their house where I kept meeting Hugh and Tulsi. Always, I was the first person Tulsi greeted with that beautiful smile on her face.

A couple of years before Hugh and Tulsi moved to Melbourne, I realised that dear Tulsi kept repeating the same things she had spoken to me. She always thanked me, and I don’t know why, but what she always said made me happy.

I miss dear Tulsi, as much as I don’t have Hugh in Sydney anymore. Tulsi was such a kind and wonderful person. She was indeed an Angel born on this planet.

Thank you dear Tulsi for all the wonderful memories. One day we will all meet again.

Michael Rohan Sourjah

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