Lalit Parakrama Agalawatta 75, passed away at Mt Sinai Hospital in New York on December 17, 2013, after having suffered a severe heart attack, giving a rude shock to all his relatives and friends. Lalit passed away having fulfilled his heartfelt need to see his only grand son Alakai who was born just six months before. Sita his devoted spouse and Lalit had expressed their wish to see their only new born grandson and their only son Amal in New York and left Sri Lanka only a week before Lalit’s sudden demise. My wife and I are so thankful for treating him to breakfast two days before they left Sri Lanka.
Thankfully Lalit saw his grandson before he closed his eyes. I have had the pleasure of knowing Lalit for almost 65 years and associating with him over this long period , both in Sri Lanka and also when he was in Britain, then the US and even in Kosovo where he served with the United Nations for a three year stint.Lalit and I lived next door to each other in houses down Havelock Rd in those halcyon days. Lalit’s father was the renowned Mudliyar C. M Agalawatta who in his days was the Acting Registrar General and signed many of our Birth Certificates. His mother was the sister of one time Chief Justice Hema H. Bassnayake and Lalit spoke very proudly of this connection. Lalit and I were at Royal Collge together. He joined two years after I did. I still recall with nostalgia how we used to ride with his father in their Vauxhall Velox when he ferried us to Royal and back and then pick up his sister Irangani (who later married famous lawyer Daya Perera PC and sadly passed away two years ago) from the University of Ceylon in Thurstan Rd, only a block way from Royal and then to Holy Family Convent on Galle Rd to pick up Chitra his younger sister. At Royal Lalit threw himself actively into sporting activities playing both Cricket and Rugger at College.
I still treasure a fading photograph of the two of us when we were prefects. Lalit went on to become Head Prefect. After Royal Lalit persuaded his parents to send him to Britain to further his studies as he was keen to be a Barrister.
Events proved otherwise as he found himself absorbed into the famous Ceylon Tea Centre, down Regent St where he served many years as Asst. Tea Controller. This work took him to Paris, Amerterdam and Stockholm where there were Ceylo Tea Centres. It was during one of these visits that Cupid struck when he met lovely Sita Jayawardena who strangely enough was also working at the Tea Centre in Gamester. The rest is history. Soon they were blessed with two adorable children Jamal (who served in the US Army in places like Iraq and Afghanistan) and Shania who now works with the United Nations in Sudan. After serving a long stint in London Laity was hand picked by the then Minister for Plantation Industries Major Montague Jayhawker to set up a Ceylon Tea Centre in New York. He accomplished this onerous task single handedly, facing severe odds in a strange environment and ran that Centre for a few years. Later due to considerations of cutting down overseas expenditure , the then Got decided to close the Centre.
Meanwhile Sita with her competent secretarial skills found employment in the UN building in New York and rose to be the Secretary to the Chef de Cabinet who was the second in command to the then Secretary General Kofi Annan, who found in her a reliable and efficient person. I recall the many many occasions when I was in transit in London and New York how eagerly Lalit and Sita awaited my arrival and insisted that I stay with them in their apartment. Waterside Plaza in New York soon became a house hold name for me. Lalit was a devout Buddhist and on each occasion I spent the night with them I woke up to Spirit being chanted on the Cassette Recorder.He continued to follow his strong Buddhist traditions even in Battaramulla where they moved to when they returned to Sri Lanka, by visiting the temple regularly.
I will miss Lalit as a close friend and confidant. He and Sita paid frequent visits to our Havelock Road home. Many were the occasions he poured out his heart to me about some of his problems and ailments. I listened quietly and tried my best to sort out even a few of his problems, giving him some solace and comfort. The only times I had to reprimand him were about his smoking habits. He was a caring husband and devoted father. They will no doubt miss him the most. Our sympathies are with them. All of his friends both here and abroad will miss his quiet ways and gentle disposition.
May he attain Nirvana