Love and appreciation
Kalyani talks about life with Professor W.D. Lakshman
The serious looking lecturer who was said to be 'not interested in
girls' was delivering the first Econ lecture for the freshers of that
year at the Peradeniya campus.
The new comers who thought the young man was one of the seniors did
not bother to write a sentence he was teaching.
The freshers were so fed up of being ragged by seniors and were
having some breathing space at the lecture hall after facing a heavy
verbal harassment of the 'Second-years'. After their gruesome
experience, the freshers were watching the face of the young man who was
giving the lecture. "What a man," thought Kalyani frowning at him.
Prof. W.D.Lakshman and Mrs. Kalyani Lakshman
The next was a tute class. Kalyani was bewildered when she saw a
'C-minus' on the top right corner of her tute. "Oh! why is this?" she
exclaimed. The studious fresher who had never got 'minus' marks in her
life was feeling terrible. She frowned at the young tutor once again. He
was peacefully at his desk attending to some work bending his head down.
By now the freshers knew the small made young man was not another
senior, but the youngest lecturer W.D.Lakshman of the Department of
The fresher Kalyani Sirisili Munasinghe was from Ihalayagoda,
Imbulgoda, Gampaha. As the only child of her parents, Head Master, D. M.
Munasinghe and Isebella Munasinghe, a teacher, Kalyani had had a very
happy and secured childhood. She had her primary education at Rajasinghe
Maha Vidyalaya, Imbulgoda, and then entered Rathnavali Balika Vidyalaya,
"I was the only child. When I was small I thought it was great. But
later regretted it. When you don't have siblings; oh! that feeling is
different. The worst part of it was that I really missed the rifts that
would be common among siblings..
That was because I was scared to fight with my cousins and friends
though they were in abundance. I thought they would not come back to me
if I had a dispute with them. You know, you don't have to get scared to
fight with your own sisters and brothers as they 'will not' leave you.
So I really missed that," laughs Kalyani.
"I was very close to my mother. My father was a good person, but was
very strict. When I got my report card at the end of the term, I had to
produce it as I entered the house. Otherwise Thatha suspected some thing
is wrong. However my "teacher parents" influence provoked me to further
my studies," she says.
On their wedding day
Sinhala, Economics, Pali and Education were her subjects at the 'Pera'
university. Kalyani passed out as a graduate of Bachelor of Education in
"I'm a person who talks a lot. But he doesn't. However I used to
interact with him as he was my lecturer. But he was a great critic. He
would hack one's tute from top to bottom. He looks for perfection in
every aspect when marking a tute. And he is still like that," she says.
Kalyani was at lunch at the Pera lunch hall when one of her male
batch mates came to her to join her. "You know Kalyani, I have something
to tell you. It is about Mr.Lakshman," he said. "Oh, what's so especial
about him?" she was not bothered. "He seems to be interested in you," he
Kalyani and her room-mate were invited to go for a film at the Regal
Cinema, Kandy. Among the male batch mates, the young lecturer who
'doesn't like girls' was also there. Kalyani still doesn't know whether
it was a planned mission. But it was the first time that the two got the
chance to talk freely.
Weligamage Don Lakshman was born in Mihiripanne, Galle. Lakshman was
the third of four children of the business family of Mr. and Mrs.
Porolis de Silva. He had his education at the Vidyaloka College, Galle,
and was the Head Prefect at school.
The Marxist Economist didn't have any other desire other than
engulfing himself in books, newspapers and tutes; collecting and
updating his knowledge of the past and current economical occurrences of
the country and the world. His knowledge was universal. In addition to
that Lakshman was very much involved in politics at the university. He
was a Leftist.
"My parents did not give their consent at once.. Lakshman was
preparing to go to the UK. I was the only child, and my parents were so
upset over this idea. They were so possessive and wanted to give me in
marriage to a person who would stay in Sri Lanka through out," she
reminisces. However their 'Prem Tharangaya' (love) had a happy ending.
Lakshman and Kalyani got married on September 18 in 1968.
"We were to fly to UK for his PhD at the Oxford University. We had to
sacrifice our honeymoon as we were running to and fro collecting our air
tickets and getting ready for the flight," she recalls with a smile.
"As everybody knows, Lakshman rarely shows his emotions. The only
time in my life that I saw him crying, was when we were setting off to
the UK. He fell down at his father's feet and cried like a little child.
Even I was helpless. And it was his brother who raised him to his feet,"
While Lakshman was studying, Kalyani joined the Oxford Press as a
Statistician. When they returned to Sri Lanka they were proud parents of
two sons, Harsha and Rajith. Iresha, their only daughter was born later.
Prof. W. D. Lakshman was the Dean of the Faculty of Economics at the
University of Colombo, and held the post of the Vice Chancellor at the
same university from 1995 to 1999. He was honoured with the Deshamanya
title in 2005.
Kalyani became a teacher. After teaching in the outstations for
sometime, she came to St. Anthony's Girls' School, Kollupitya. "The
vacancy was for a Commerce teacher. I had done only Economics. I was on
the fence and didn't know whether to accept it or not.
But then I remembered Educationist, Prof. J. E. Jayasuriya's words.
'Whatever the subject is offered to you, as a teacher you should be able
to accept it and teach. If you are not familiar with the subject, learn
it while teaching'.... So I also accepted the challenge.
One of my husband's students, Ramya, who was also a lecturer at the
Colombo Campus, promised to teach me Accounts and Commerce. I enroled to
do CIMA, and successfully did the first two parts. So while learning I
taught," she smiles.
Prof. Lakshman got sabbatical leave once, and the whole family was
able to stay in Japan for 9 months. Kalyani used this opportunity to
learn Japanese. "And later when I got the appointment as a Commerce
teacher at Devi Balika Vidyalaya, Colombo I was able to introduce
Japanese language to the A/L stream. I taught Japanese voluntarily.
Later I was offered a scholarship to Japan, and it provided me the
opportunity to get the paper qualifications to teach the language," she
Mrs. Kalyani Lakshman was a popular teacher wherever she taught. She
rendered her service as the Deputy Principal of Lindsey Balika, Colombo
and Principal of Yasodhara Balika, Gampaha, and retired after serving as
the Principal of Devi Balika Maha Vidyalaya, Colombo for 9 years.
Mrs. Kalyani Lakshman, more than a teacher or a Principal was a
friend to her students. And that is why she is loved so much by all her
students and fellow teachers.
After recovering from a critical period in life due to a malignant
illness for nearly a year, today Kalyani spends an extremely serene and
happy life. "I'm really happy when I think of how I could recover from
my illness so fast.
Medication, meditation and the nursing rendered to me by my family
along with their love and care might have been the facts that pulled me
out from danger. My three children and husband were very strong and
never let me fall mentally. They were like four pillars around me," she
Question : Prof. Lakshman is known as a well learned figure who talks
little. What kind of a perspective do you have regarding him?
Kalyani : He talks less in general. But if he falls into a topic that
interests him he would go on talking. He is a bookworm. Even when he
comes home he prefers to spend most of his time in his library. So first
thing I did for him after I got retired from work and got recovered from
my illness was, giving him a library at home (laughs).
Now all his books are kept in order, and he has easy access to them
(laughs). Unlike the distance I had with my father, my husband and my
children are having a close relationship among them. Children do not go
through me to him. But when it comes to a social obligation I have to be
He never remembers or bothers to take part in functions or other
social activities. Somebody has to push him. Also he would see and point
out short comings, but rarely appreciates or admires things.
Though he is a serious critic in work when it comes to helping or
assisting somebody (it can be his student or friend) he would push that
person until he or she becomes successful. That is his greatest hobby
which I really admire in him.
The Lakshmans' residence at Kotte reminds me of a Buddhist temple.
The calm and tranquil surface which prevails there gives a sense of
peace to whoever enters their home.
"I lead a very spiritual life now. Do you know, what my husband's
surprise gift to me for last year's Poson Poya Day was? It was a set of
the 'Thripitakaya'. I have been reading them. Since I have done Pali
it's easy," she says.
The Ikebana floral arrangements done by Kalyani enhance the blissful
ecstasy of their residence. "I learnt Ikebana when I was in Japan. When
you see an Ikebana arrangement it gives you peaceful pleasure. It's like
meditation as an Ikebana arrangement carries a deep sober meaning," she
All three children of the Lakshman couple today hold doctorates.
Their sons, Dr. Harsha Lakshman is in UK and Dr. Rajith Lakshman is
attached to the Department of Economics of the University of Colombo.
Their only daughter Dr. Iresha Karunaratne is attached to the
Department of Sociology at the Colombo University. Prof. W. D. Lakshman
and Mrs. Kalyani Lakshman who are today the grandparents of four are
leading a tranquil life.
Rendering his utmost service to the country on an academical level
for many decades Prof. Lakshman retired from his services last week.
"My wife has been dedicated to us, the family, throughout," was the
one and only sentence Prof. Lakshman said about Kalyani. But those few
words declared a lot ; sincerity, love and appreciation.