Remembering H.L. de Silva: A daughter's tribute
by Lakmali Casinader
It is six months since my father more popularly known as HL passed away. In the weeks that followed his passing many paid homage to thathi’s achievements, but I would like to share with you some of his qualities which influenced my life.
From my very young days I remember Thathi as someone who always stood up and spoke out for what he believed in. Whether such views were controversial or unpopular he would always voice his opinion fearlessly. These memories range from minor incidents such as a complaint he wrote in the ‘compliments book’ at the Grand Hotel in Nuwara Eliya when the management failed to control the drunken behaviour of some fellow guests who kept him up all night, to the very bold stand he took as President of the Bar Association in the Liyanarachchi incident.
Thathi was someone who was very passionate about whatever he believed in. You only have to wander through our home and you will literally trip over the many book cases that are jam packed with books on Christianity, the law, the ethnic crisis or books on Sri Lanka. He was a great believer in researching his subject and not being a techno head, he did not believe in the power of internet. If there was one paragraph that he thought was interesting in a book he would just buy it.
Many were the hours I spent with him in years gone by at the Maquarie University library in Sydney looking for some obscure case or article in some ancient law journal which he believed would just clinch his argument. Although thathi had strong views on whatever subject he wrote about or spoke on, being a lawyer he always wanted someone to challenge his views and put forward a counter argument, and always lamented the fact that no one would respond to the many articles that he wrote.
Thathi always had respect for people regardless of their background, or level of intelligence. Time and time again I would be amazed at the amount of patience he would display in the way he would treat people who were not as intellectually gifted as he was.
He was a perfectionist in whatever he did. Ammi will attest to how he would scribble his changes to his ‘final’ draft in the car on his way to making his speeches, despite having redrafted that one sentence at least five times before. His command of the English language was astounding and I would often accuse him of trying to show off because I would often come across a word that I would need to look up in the dictionary.
He always had words of wisdom to impart, whether it was in relation to his favourite dish or on some intellectual topic such as the right to self determination. His thirst for knowledge even at 81 was unquenchable and always believed that he was never too old to learn.
Thathi never sought riches or fame but rather was blessed by God through the many gifts he was given which he shared so generously expecting no return. His modesty and quiet unassuming nature would often cause people to ask are you ‘the H.L de Silva’ as given his fame they expected a brash and imposing persona.
Thathi was a very loving father and it always amuses me to look back at photographs of him playing cricket with us when we were five years old. A skill he did not possess but engaged in it to spend time with akki and myself.
Many were the days when he would have to set an alarm to pick me up from a late night party at 2am during my teenage years because he did not want some unknown boy dropping me home. He was a very conservative person yet agreed to go on the dance floor and do the baila at my wedding which was something he would have previously done only when he was drunk in his bachelor days, and complained to me thereafter that the judges would never take him seriously after they saw him dance.
If I close my eyes so many memories of thathi come flooding back. He has influenced my life in so many ways through his words of wisdom and the example of his life. They say you can’t choose your parents and in my case, how lucky I have been in the wonderful mother I have and all that thathi has been to me.
If I was to describe him as a person I would say that he placed integrity above all else and I am so thankful to God that he was my father and I had the honour and privilege of being his daughter.
Thathi I miss you so much and I will always love you and cherish you in my heart.