By Chandrasena Maliyadde
Prof. N.D. Samarawickrama
The recent demise of Professor N.D. Samarawickrama – affectionately known as Samare to his Peradeniya friends – was sudden and shocking and caused enormous grief. He was hale and hearty; he advised us to keep safe from COVID-19. Alas! Ironically, he himself finally became a victim.
Professor Samarawickrama was born in 1943 at Mederipitiya, a beautiful village, bordering UNESCO heritage site – the “Sinharaja” rainforest. He was the “Loku Ayya” to his five brothers and four sisters born to R.D. Samarawickrama, village headman and Laura Senanayake.
Samare was popular among students and teachers and excelled equally in both curricular and extracurricular matters in his alma mater Deniyaya Central College.
He was admitted to Colombo Campus of University of Ceylon in 1964 and among the few selected for Bachelor of Commerce degree at Peradeniya University.
Peradeniya University is a paradise. Samare’s eyes were open inside as well as outside library. Samare, the loner, was no longer a loner. We envied him being the first among us. Samare was at ease in the lecture room, the library, the gym and of course, the infamous lovers’ lane. He enjoyed university life fully. He was the first to come from rural Deniyaya and graduate from a university.
He was close and affectionate to all irrespective of age, rank, relationship, or position. His welcoming and never fading smile and resounding laughter – were his hallmarks. His affection and closeness were reflected through a ‘YO’ added to a name of a friend: Sunil is Sunilayo; Madure is Madureyo; Parane is Paraneyo; and Justin is Justiyo. He was never good at pretence. He was a symbol of sincerity.
Samare earned his Bachelor of Commerce Degree with a Second Class (Upper Division) in 1968. He joined the Department of Economics, University of Peradeniya and served in various capacities until the day before his passing away.
Samare was educated at prestigious universities in the UK (Manchester and Surrey) and in the USA (Boston University). He completed his doctoral degree at University of Colombo with his pioneering research on “Industrial Accumulation in Sri Lanka: Impact of Policy Shifts” in Sri Lanka. This thesis was published by Gyan Publishing House, India and remains until now the only exhaustive critical study of the early phase of Sri Lanka’s industrialisation policies.
Samare remained in Sri Lanka teaching thousands of university students. He served as a senior lecturer in economics and management at the University of Sokoto, Nigeria. He spent 2005 as a Visiting Senior Fellow at the School of Economics & Finance, College of Law & Business, University of Western Sydney, NSW, Australia. He used to recall his memorable short visits to the Sun Moon University, Asan, South Korea in 1997 and the Faculty of Economics, Saga University, Japan in 2008.
Father figure in Samare
While he was in his final year, his father passed away. As the eldest son, he gave his mother marvellous support to bring up his brothers and sisters to success. One of his brothers fondly recalls: “He was not only a brother; he was a father to us too.”
Samare had a chance encounter with Chandra Rajakaruna, his batchmate and popular teacher, at a friend’s place a few years after she left Peradeniya. It was love at first sight, and it was a marriage made in heaven. Chandra became his lifelong companion and beacon light. They were blessed with two sons – Sachithra (medical professional domiciled in USA) and Madhubasha (IT professional living in Peradeniya). The grandchildren brought immense joy and happiness to Samare and Chandra in their role as devoted and adoring grandparents.
We all had samples of lavish hospitality by Samare and Chandra at their mansion built with a beautiful view of the Mahaweli river on a hillock in Hindagala, next to the Campus.
Teacher figure in Samare
Samare was both a life-long learner and life-long teacher. He loved sharing his knowledge with his students and peers. Professor Samarawickrama was dedicated to university teaching – he taught at Universities of Peradeniya, Colombo and Rajarata. He was the first Head of the economic studies program at the Dumbara (Polgolla) Campus.
He retired in 2008 but, by no means, marked the end of his prolific academic contributions. He contributed to the Postgraduate Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences, as a postgraduate thesis examiner, and to promote social sciences and economics disciplines at the newly established Rajarata University. He was a member of the Board of Study in Economics and Management and University Council – the Governing Body at the University of Peradeniya.
A final word
We still find it difficult to come to terms with his sudden passing away. He devoted six to seven decades of generous caring for the family, welcoming friends with his never fading smile and teaching tens of thousands of university students locally and abroad.
Samare can say goodbye to many roles he played during his life with pride. We call him ‘a man for all seasons’. We shall always remember Samare as a dear brother, a true friend, a father-figure, a loving husband, devoted father and grandfather, a dedicated university teacher and the one who dedicated his life to promotion of standards of university education in Sri Lanka, an amiable and generous host, and above all a kind human being with roots on the ground.
Samare! Your gentle captivating laughter still rings in our ears.
Dear departed friend: Rest in Peace! May you attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana!