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"Son, engineer; daughter, doctor ... even today I have no car -- Personal dialogue with Maco


"Son, engineer; daughter, doctor ... even today I have no car -- Personal dialogue with Maco

Mr. Mahinda Deshapriya, chairman of election commission is the person who created most headlines of recent times. What was often reported about him was official news connected to the election concerned. However, a weekend newspaper had inquired about his personal life beyond his external professional life. Some interesting information was revealed about this wonderful character.

"Our father was 'Iskole Piyasena mahaththaya'. Our father was a youth member of the communist
party towards the end of the forties. It may be across M.G. Mendis that father had joined communist party. From the time we recall, father was involved in Ambalangoda active politics. It was to our house that they brought the communist newspaper 'Mawbima' to be distributed in Ambalangoda. Father used to go with elder brother 'Hichchi aiya' to the roadside and unload it from the bus and bring it home. Surath of 'Eththa' newspaper used to involve himself in politics with father. Father used to take us on May Day. Mother also used to come with us. I believe that it may be because of getting to know a newspaper comrade called Rathna Deshapriya that the name Deshapriya was given. That was something that I heard of. If not our father and grandparents had the surname Waduge with Silva part too coming in there.

* Your mother is a school-teacher?
  Yes. Our mother and father have got married when father who came to Heenetiya school where mother taught and a romance developed there. Our mother in fact is elder to father ... about four years elder. But the two of them lived a very happy family life bonded in love. I was born in my mother's ancestral home. When father died, he was fifty five years old. Mother lived to ninety three years.

Father at one time was inclined to the JVP and functioned as an advisor too. After that he pulled away from it. Elder brother and elder sister too was connected to the JVP. Finally, father was a Sri Lanka Freedom Party activist. People like Rohana Wijeweera too used to come home those days. We remember those things very well. Before Rohana Wijeweera and the crowd got caught in 71, the whole clique was brought to our house to settle a crisis in the party and there was a discussion about it. Politics was not something unusual to our home. Mother too was involved in this. It was only I came to the elections department that I told our mother to keep political activities outside home; because political connections could not be confined to our home.

Towards mother's last days she was at her elder sister's home in Gampaha. But for every election one of us had to accompany her to Ambalangoda. Mother had a collection of saris of varying colours to dress for the election. Though our father was attached to Leftist politics, he had friends from all parties. Father even allowed to conduct parties of those of other parties to be held in our home. There was no misunderstanding of hatred with anybody. It may be that quality which is in us too. We also associate with people of any level without discrimination from what we observed in father.

* How was mother's attachment to the son?
  Mother of course same to us everybody. Not only to us ... whoever used to come home ... they were all treated alike. After I used to come home from Peradeniya university ... I would tap on the window close to where mother was teaching and thus make her open the door. On most occasions friends used to come with me. It does not matter how many of us come ... mother would hasten to do some cooking for us. First of all she would keep water to boil in a big kettle and then make tea. In the process she would cook rice. There is no day in the South where a pot of fish curry is absent in the kitchen. Apart from that a 'sambol' is prepared. If someone special has come ... then a curry of dhal is prepared.

Mother's nature was to treat anybody in the best manner. In houses in the South it is like that. Not only my friends; even Sunanda's friends too used to come home. Those of political parties also was the same. Our home was a place where everybody was provided food and even lodging as well. Even at 'nonagathe' period in the Sinhala New Year period, anybody visiting our home was given food and drink. We actually did not pay that much heed to those auspicious times as such. Therefore, our friends used to come to our house.

* That means ... there was a free environment and atmosphere at home?
  Oh yes. Even when we were in the eighth standard itself we could go and watch films alone. Even if we go to bathe in the sea; nobody would prohibit us. Sometimes adults used to come with us to go to the sea. There was no taboos for those things. All in our family were the same. Even JVP classes were held in our home. Elder brother and elder sister used to join those. There was no taboos for those. There was hardly anyone who did not attend those classes in our area as such. It is like going through the facebook now. Those in Ambalangoda were special. A lot of people had an interest in politics during our time.

* What about schooldays memories?
  So that is something that nobody tends to forget, no. The other thing is we were in a mixed school. Those are sweet memories. So we used to do every possible mischievous thing. We had a good principal called M.D. Wimalasooriya. I keep his photograph in my office. It was he who looked after us like a father. Whatever naughty thing we did ... we loved our principal and teachers. What we studied ... we did to the letter. If not for our school, Ambalangoda would not be this popular. I think I did science subjects for my advanced level. Father created a love towards Maths from our small days. I was to some extent clever in school.

I was chosen for the engineering faculty. But I entered the science faculty to do the degree in chemistry. After being there for about a fortnight I chucked it up and came. Then I did the general degree. As soon as I left university, I got a teaching appointment at Dharmasoka. When I was to teach there ... there were fellows who were there in school with us.

* How is campus life?
  I was more in the arts faculty than in the science faculty. It was a lovely time. There also was involved in politics; formed an association of those who had broken off from parties. We had a lot of friends. Even today they are at various places. We would come across each other ... reminisce past memories and have some fun with them.

When Weerasooriya was assassinated, I was engaged as an activist is a student campaign. Studied in the first year. Enjoyed in the second year. Did politics in the third year. What studied also I did to the maximum. Did everything except love.

* Oh gosh ... why is that?
  There was a romance during schooldays. A love during letter-writing time. After a short period of time that crashed. After that when I started teaching at Dharmasoka I met a female there and after a romance, married her. Even while at the university carried on a love affair in the village. But that stopped half-way.

* Why didn't the teaching career continue?
  It was about five years that I was a teacher. I taught subjects like chemistry, pure maths, applied maths. It was in 1982 that I sat for the administration service. I attended classes to sit the chartered accountancy exam. That too stopped half-way. During that time a friend to sit for the administrative service. I did so and passed. It was after that I came for the job in election department. Now at times I think it would have been better if I stuck to my teaching career. If so, I would be on pension and be back home relaxing.

* How did the marriage take place?
  After the village love ... waited for sometime. Later when I went to the village school for the teaching assignment I got entangled in a love affair with a girl there. We were in the same staff. That is how it happened. We got married in 1986. We were in Ambalangoda till 2000. Elder brother and younger brother came to reside in Colombo. In the meantime there was a vacancy in in the Colombo office of the elections department. Earlier wife Ramani and children were living in a rented out house in Moratuwa. Ramani had a transfer made to Prince of Wales College and taught there till she went on pension in 2016.

Subsequently we bought a land in Moratuwa and built up a house. Now son is in that house. We are now in Bambalapitiya, where the former election commissioner was. We have a son and daughter. Son is an engineer at the irrigation office. Daughter is a doctor at Lady Ridgeway. Son is 31 years old and daughter 28. Both are married and both of them have children. I am a grandfather now. What we did not have ... our children have today. Even today I do not have a car to call my own. Neither can I drive a car. I am frightened to drive vehicles. I can ride only push bicycles. Whenever I drive a vehicle ... what constantly comes to my mind is that the vehicle coming in my direction will crash into mine. To get a training I drove with friends. Not being able to cope up ... I gave it up. Like vehicles I am dead scared of dogs too. One day a dog bit me and I had to face twenty one injections around my navel.

* Did you have a target as such of reaching the topmost chair in your career in election-life?
  Didn't have any such thing at any time. Just did what I was assigned. Didn't have big hopes or targets here.

* Have you planned your retirement?
  No special preparation. Ready even to leave tomorrow. But some things though we want ... it can't be achieved then and there.

* What are you doing to enjoy yourself?
  My greatest enjoyment is engaging in conversation. There is no other enjoyment other than engaging in a 'kaiya' with somebody. Like a little bit to watch Hindi films. With my busy schedule there is no time for that too. Only a few Sinhala films I get a chance to see. The other thing is ... when I see the things you'll write about some films; the desire to see those films completely vanish. The next thing I like most is reading. My habit is to read whatever I can lay hands on. I also read the 'Sathuta' paper given with the Lankadeepa newspaper. When there is a chance I of course see a stage drama.

* At the same time you are an active character within the social media.
  A very active character. I am right into it. Can't say addicted. I exchange or transact with those media without being a hindrance to my duty. When enjoying ... I have a shot or two. I of course am not short of invitations for parties. Just as much as parties with 'shots', there are parties minus 'shots' too. To throw a party to enjoy ... it can be with alcohol and without alcohol too, no. When I go to the village, I would corner myself with friends I engage in parties.

* Do you go to the village often?
  Not possible to frequently. Even today I was hoping to go to the village. But couldn't. Wife and daughter went. Can't  forget the village. Like the saying 'kimbulwathpuren ena suwandath sepai', Ambalngoda is the home. But now we are stuck between a place which is neither village nor the city. Like sea water fish and fresh-water fish. Neither here nor there".

(Priyantha Kodippily -- Lankadeepa) 


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