This is a reflection about a Great man, Richard Kulatunga, who lived a Great life. It is written in the first person, but I write on behalf of my siblings and cousins, and all the “kids” who were touched by his Greatness. This is a simple memory of my Grandfather, a humble reflection on my Muththa, one of the Greatest men I’ve known.
He taught me how to plant, how to pick the ripest fruit, and to tend to a garden. He taught me how to light the dried leaves in a corner of the garden before you start working, so that the smoke will keep the mosquitos away.
Muththa taught me how to enjoy a good book. He taught me how to appreciate a good letter. He honed in me the eagerness to write, and to read. He would recite from memory poems and sayings, and quote many people he admired. He kept a journal and encouraged me to note down my thoughts as well. That we can look back at what we’ve done, and what we’ve learned.
Muththa taught me how to be a cricket fan! Countless were the nights you could hear him cheering or shaking his head at the Television. He taught me to appreciate the game of cricket, and told me stories of his younger days as an athlete. He encouraged me to join the various sports teams, and he would drive me to my games. I remember running into the house with my medals and cups, and Muththa would proudly put it high on a shelf and i would preen and gloat around the house for days.
Muththa taught me how to appreciate Sri Lankan politics and World politics; Retelling stories of great men and great deeds from our history or shaking his head at the TV Screen saying “Those bloody Donkeys!”
Muththa taught me how to swim. He taught me how to float in the warm waters, and how to embrace the Ocean and all its mystical healing powers. He taught me how to feel as easy in the water as i felt on land; and turn to the Ocean when i needed a place to rest my eyes and my mind. He taught me how to respect its strength and revel in its mystery.
As people who know me will note, all the things he taught me have become completely a part of who i am, and what i enjoy as a person. Muththa helped shape me into this person. Every achievement, every hurdle, every opportunity i take, i am reminded of him; his love and support, his encouragement and his invaluable lessons.
I remember the sounds of him, the sounds of my childhood. I remember the way he hummed as he walked up to the house for his lunch break from the Office; I remember the 5am sound of his radio as he turned it on and listened to the Bana deshana to start the morning; the clickety-clack of his type-writer as he made another note in his case files; and his various sounds of delight, “Shaa-laa” after a good meal, or the roaring sound of his laugh at a good joke, or something delightful Malli or Nangi did.
To the world he was many things; a Lion, a respected Lawyer, a Sportsman.
To us he was Muththa. It was the most treasured and accomplished of his many roles and titles and he filled the role of Grandfather with a vigor and enthusiasm unparalled in this universe.
I miss you every day Muththa. I wish i could tell you about the things I’ve learned and the places I have been. I wish i could tell you the people I’ve met, and the countless times I’ve quoted you, or applied a lesson you taught me.
I wish you would regale me with that story about your trip to California and the largest Avocados you’ve ever seen- Not because i don’t know the story, but the delight that crossed your face when you described the size of the Cadillac in the garden is one of my most treasured images of you.
I love you for always Muththa. May you attain the supreme peace of Nibbana.