Royal People

A dedication to those wonderful people who served Royal Primary School & Royal College, in Sri Lanka, since 1835, and, who will be remembered for their committment, sincerety and unselfishness.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tribute to Rama Sellamuttu

In a message dated 24/01/2012 18:11:08 GMT Standard Time, writes:
Dear Vipula,

Thank you for informing me, too, about the interesting event, with its noble concomitant - of remembering Rama with the generous gesture of dedicating a Rama Sellamuttu Memorial Trophy.  I am sure Rama's spiritual blessings will be in abundance for the success of the event.

Rama was easily my oldest friend, although we drifted apart long before I left old Ceylon, as we had to, when we grew and matured and our interests changed and diverged.

But my earliest memories of friendship, going back in fact to my first year at RPS, in 1953 (our class teacher was a Mrs Rajakariayar), are vivid. We used to sit next to each other and one day, the Head Master, the very lovable A.F. de Saa Bandaranaike, came around to our class, bringing with him a tall, mightily-built, black man and asked us whether we knew who he was. I nudged Rama, because I thought we knew who he was, partly because we were already collecting cricket pictures from the Daily News and The Hindu and this mighty man was in our scrapbook. He was, of course (then) , Learie Constantine, later Lord Constantine.

Rama grew up, as you would know better than I, as the son of his 'real' Father's eldest brother. His natural Father was Balendra Sellamuttu, the youngest son of old Adikhar Sellamuttu. Balendra Sellamuttu's childless eldest brother, Somasundaram, decided to bring up Rama, partly because Balendra was a bit reckless and the home he was able to offer Rama was less than stable.

In a very distant sense we were also related: Nagendra and Sangarappillai Sellamuttu, two elder brothers of Balendra, married two sisters, Kamini and Gnaneswari Tambyah, my Maternal Grandmother's brother. One of Balendra's sisters married Alfred Tambiaiyah, then MP for Kayts, when my Father was the MP for Chavakachcheri and they were both together with GGP first in the TC and, then, for a short while, also in the UNP.

Rama was brought up in a very protected way, perhaps even overly-protected. He used to be sent to spend the day with me, during a weekend or two, every month, when we were living down Madangahawatte Lane. Old Mr Somasundaram always - in those days - had a large, shining black, American car, which, if I remember well was a Buick in the old-style of a curved/slanting rear. They also had a loyal driver, who we called, interchangeably, Kaka or Nana (he was a Muslim) and was also fiercely protective of Rama - and the car! When Rama was sent home to us to spend the day with me, the car would stay, with the driver. So, we had also to feed and look after the driver.

Our home was not as palatial as that of Somasundaram Sellamuttu's, at 22 Queen's Road, but we were too young and too absorbed in each others' pranks to think of such things.
Rama's home had a talking parrot; his adopted Father owned award winning horses - one of which was called Joshua!

One day, in the very early 1960s, I spent the day at Rama's home, invited by the family, to meet a distinguished American athlete. I was not told who this distinguished person was, in advance. While we were playing with various of the luxury items in Rama's room and home, this handsome man, a little like Lord Constantine in appearance, turned up. It was Rafer Johnson, who had won the gold medal for the Decathlon at the Rome Olympics! Many years later, in the early 1990s, when I was a Visiting Professor at UCLA, my host there, Professor Axel Leijonhufvud, told me that the preacher at their Church was Rafer Johnson! I told him and his wife, Earlene Craver, the above story and asked them to enquire from Rafer Johsson whether he remembered his visit to 22 Queen's Road. Axel asked, as I requested, the following Sunday and Rafer Johnson had told him not only that he remembered his visit very well, and with much pleasure, but that he maintained contact with the family for many years!

Rama was a very special (and generous) person, who almost always had the courage to choose his own path, even when it was not easy to do so, coming from such a wealthy family. One manifestation of this - in the context of the trophy in his memory - was the kind of cricketer he chose to be. He was thoroughly unconventional, a very special kind of leg break bowler, which was always a difficult art. I remember with absolute and crystal clarity his run up to the wicker and his idiosyncratic action.

In those young days, in the 1950s, I was always invited to his birthday parties at 22 Queen's Road - and his birthday, if my memory serves me well, was in October - where one always met and shook hands with the majestically clad old Mr Adikhar Sellamuttu, always in immaculate sherwani and a pocket watch running across the lapels of it.

At least in all the years I knew Rama well, I was never allowed to sit anywhere but the front seat of the family car, micromanaged by Kaka/Nana! No 'outsider' was allowed to 'contaminate' the backseats, where Mr and Mrs Somasundaram sat in splendour.

I always thought Rama very intelligent, bordering on extreme cleverness, but it was rampantly undisciplined. Had his undoubted natural talents been harnessed and channelled in effective ways I have no doubts whatsoever that he would have achieved academic greatness.

By the early 1960s we had drifted apart and I lost all contact with him for over forty five years - and, then, suddenly, I received a most wonderfully sculpted e-mail from him, just bef0ore his untimely death. He attached a photograph of himself with his current wife; the illness that had consumed him and that eventually brought him down was written all over the way he had grown thin and wane. But the happy and mischievous face and glint in the eye was evident even in a photograph, sent by these less than perfect means. I wrote back, reminiscing fondly, and hoping we would soon get together again - which was, alas, not to be.

Ironically, I had been invited to spend several months at the University of Technology Sydney, as one of its ten Distinguished Visiting Scholars for this academic year and was, actually, scheduled to spend January to March in Sydney. However, as the time for departure neared, I did not feel like making the long journey and spending so many months away from what has become my intellectual and cultural base, here in Italy. Had I mustered the courage to spend the time in Sydney it would have given me the chance, finally, to pay homage to an old and valued friend.
 I know you were very close to him and I salute you for your selfless act of remembering a good, generous, friend. It was a blessing to have known him, and to remember the times I shared with his playful, joyous, generous ways.

I am copying this to some of my almost equally old friends of times gone by.

Warmest, even if melancholy, wishes,
Department of Economics
University of Trento
Via Inama 5
381 00 Trento
Tel: +39 0461 282379

Suren Cooke comments:
Does anyone Remember Rama learning to Drive?
His Father had an Opel and it was either at lunch time or at the end of day,when Rama got behind the wheel
And his driver fixed the big L board and sat beside him,and Ramas Car was parked near Deraniyagalas facing College.
He took off like Michael Schumacher and couldn’t straighten the wheel and the Car which was parked with the rear to the wall ended up with the front smashing the wall,he did a U turn,we all hooted and laughed and Rama didn’t know what to do.That was the last we saw Rama behind the wheel.

Muthu says:
Can't remember seeing this one, do you rmemebr this one Suren?  4th form detention by Alavi without notice we were all kept back. After about 30mins, Kaka , Rama's driver came to the class and started  shouting at Alavi and we were all set free.

"You have not converted a man because you have silenced him."

Viscount Morley, 'On Compromise', 1874.


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