Appreciation: The Light of Kelvin Grove Extinguished!
By Kumar de Silva
The thick pall of death hung over ‘Kelvin Grove’, 5/2 Hill Street, Kandy. In the sitting room, lay the casket bearing the mortal remains of Anne-Marie Bulathsinhala. She looked peaceful in death.
The news of her demise, after a brief illness, was not totally unexpected, but it did come as a shock too, to us all. Anne-Marie was the light of Kelvin Grove. She was, for years, the epicentre of the Pereira and Rodrigo and Bulathsinhala families, and their extended families too. She held them all together.
In this day and age of high parapet walls and padlocked gates and appointments, ‘Kelvin Grove’, the family bastion, situated literally in the shade of the Trinity College Chapel, seems like an anachronism. Its gates are always open. Its doors are always open.
And as one walked in through the front door, one always saw her, across the sitting room and the hall, sitting at her customary and favourite spot at the dining table. Hers was a vantage spot from where she could see both the front and side entrances.
She presided over the dining table not only at meal times but at all other times too… whether it was writing Christmas cards in October, chopping ingredients for the Christmas cake, assembling ingredients for the wine for Christmas, cutting blouses for the staff to stitch, making packs of sweet meats to be distributed at Aluth Avurudu time, neatly putting medicines into pill boxes, writing out shopping lists … the list is endless.
What amazed me at all times was her unique ability to stretch time. She had time for everyone, for the endless stream of random visitors who dropped in at all times of the day, Sarath’s old Trinity College students, former staff and domestics, their former boarders, her legendary Uncle Aldo’s clients who came to get clothes done, friends from near and far, relatives et al.
Anne-Marie had the unique ability of touching people’s hearts and souls with her love and her caring. In her soft spoken voice, I’ve heard her inquire after the well-being and welfare of all those she came in touch with, notwithstanding age, class and social distinction. She reached out to all with the same genuine concern. That’s where her intrinsic strength lay.
Having known the Kelvin Grove clan for the past thirty five years, I too have been showered with her sisterly love and abounding generosity. Each time I was about to leave the house to entrain back to Colombo she would thoughtfully give me little bottles and packets of food, carefully sealed and wrapped with great care. She would always remember to make me pol-roti, and the way I love it too.
I would never fail to worship her each time, prior to leaving to the Kandy Railway Station. Such was the deep respect and regard I had for her at all times.
Together with the rest of the resident family, Uncle Aldo, Andre her brother and Sarath her husband, Anne-Marie was an ardent fan of Gold FM. They love music. Throughout the entire day, all the radios in the house were tuned to FM 93.00. Gold FM poured in and out of all the rooms in that house. Their names were on the request programmes on a daily basis. I called it the “Gold FM House”.
I remember when the celebrated De Lanerolle Brothers, Rohan and Ishan, once performed with the Trinity College Choir to a full house at the Chapel above, Sarath and Anne Marie took their seats in their own front verandah and savoured the music that poured down from the Chapel into their house. “It was a magical evening,” she later told me.
Last Christmas was a massive family reunion when much of the Kelvin Grove clan converged on Kandy. They all stayed on until early January to celebrate her brother Ricky, and his wife Bianca’s 40th wedding anniversary. Anne-Marie was in her element having family around her. She opened the (extendable) legendary dining table at Kelvin Grove to make way for the clan and there still wasn’t enough room. I believe they dined over two sittings and that was a big bash. No one ever dreamt that it would be her last bash too.
And so Anne-Marie Bulathsinhala made her final journey to the Mahaiyawa Cemetery in Kandy, as several members of her family had done before her. The light of Kelvin Grove is extinguished! The sound of her voice remains still. That house will never ever be the same again.
I offer my heartfelt condolences to Sarath her husband, Arushan and Narain her two sons in Australia and the entire extended family. Anne Marie was a wonderful humane human being. She is now free from all physical suffering and pain. She goes on her journey leaving us all behind, grieving. She is now just a wonderful and a beautiful memory. May her journey through Samsara be speedy! Theruwan Saranai Ama!