VOHARA DE SILVA: PAGODA TEA ROOMS’ BROAD SMILE MANAGER
Posted on February 5th, 2015

Dr.TILAK  S. FERNANDO

It is with unfathomable emotion that I pen these words to express my deep emotions on the demise of my good friend Vohara de Silva, who answered his final call from above, a few days ago. The sad news reached me after the funeral had already taken place on the 10th of January 2015. It was only when I phoned up Verna that I gathered it had been Vohara’s wish to have a private funeral.

Vohara hailed from an exceedingly reputable family background. His late father Dr. A.H.T. de Silva, the renowned Surgeon and Superintendent at the Colombo Maternity Hospital, got married to Beatrice Rodrigo of the Panadura Gate Mudaliar Thomas Rodrigo coterie and produced four boys and four girls.

Vohara’s elder brother Indra worked at Pagoda Tea Rooms as an Accountant and his second brother was the late Vice Admiral Asoka de Silva, the Commander of the Navy from 1983 to 1986. Vohara was the third son in the family while the youngest brother was Chulika (Chuka) de Silva. The girls in the family were the late Sunita Fernando (nee Rodrigo), the late Ganjalie (Ganji) Karunaratne, Jayasekera, Kulanaganie (Kuli) Karunaratne and Dayangani (Dhi) Perera.

Vohara was the bother-in-law of my elder brother M.R. Fernando. He and I became cherished friends from the time we met each other at 144, Stafford Place, Colombo 10 as school children. I, being born very much younger to my brother and known as the ‘full stop in our family, was still a podiyen when he got married to Sunita (Rodrigo) de Silva which gave me access to their Stafford Place residence while I was a schoolboy at Prince of Wales College, Moratuwa and Vohara was studying at Trinity College, Kandy.

From his student days, Vohara was obsessed with the game of cricket. I can still recollect vividly how he dragged me out into their front lawn at Stafford Place to play cricket with his brother Chulika on the very first day I met him. Subsequently, I gathered that he had been enthusiastically playing cricket for Trinity as well as for the Bloomfield Cricket Club in Colombo.

Every time I visited Sri Lanka and happened to be in Colombo, I did a beeline to the Pagoda Tea Rooms at Chatham Street where he was the Manager. Vohara, with a broad smile always welcomed and looked after me in ‘right royal fashion coming out with his usual smile and saying, What the hell are you doing here men…”? We sat in his upstairs Pagoda office for hours and caught up with all the Sri Lankan and London gossip and later had lunch when Verna (his wife) too joined us during her lunch break.

I found Vohara to be a practical guy who liked to live a very simple and uncomplicated life without hankering after material up shots. Once he intimated to me that his only aspiration in life was to make a trip to the UK on holiday as a lifetime memento, which he accomplished with his wife Verna later and contacted me when in London. We had an entertaining time.

Vohara was an extremely popular character within the Colombo society, which was evident from the number of friends who visited Pagoda Tea Room for refreshments or during lunchtime and greeted him. It certainly would have had a tremendous influence on the Pagoda Tea Rooms to ripen the business.

Once Chatham Street was turned into a high security zone, with President’s House being in the immediate vicinity, it restricted access to Pagoda Tea Rooms during the height of the LTTE iniquities. Consequently, businesses along Chatham Street suffered immensely, along with Pagoda Tea Rooms. Vohara at that stage moved to a subsidiary company of the Rodrigo enterprise, the Green Cabin Restaurant and Caterers at Kollupitiya and managed all its activities quite effectively by regularly keeping a tab on the business, by helping the management to run it smoothly by making frequent visits to the Company’s main operation centre at Delkanda, Nugegoda, until he finally retired.

Once retired, he decided to lead a sedentary life at home as travelling to Colombo all the way from his home at Sapugaskanda, in the outskirts of Colombo, became too tiresome for him to drive.

Twenty-five years ago he was diagnosed as suffering from a heat complaint. He was found to have two blocks in his arteries but he was never willing to undergo an open-heart by-pass operation (grafting). He carried on with a determined decision not to undergo surgery but as a devout Buddhist, believing strongly in the theory that there is a pre-determined life span for every individual.

My friend Vohara de Silva, had a noble and magnanimous heart. He never lost touch with the ordinary people while moving with the cream of the society. Born with Bodhi Sathva qualities, his urge was always to help others, which meant that the problem of others’ became part of his own glitches. At times his over-generosity and kindness were misused and exploited by a few yet he bore no grudges nor did he envy another, which were great qualities that he left behind for the rest of us to follow.

Vohara was a kind manager to his staff, yet he maintained discipline to its true word. He was a brilliant conversationalist. His Colombo family background, Trinity grooming and of course his inborn pleasant qualities helped him to cultivate many friends. He always helped others seeking no rewards or publicity, neither did he seek appreciation or praise but everyone who associated him appreciated his great qualities in the same manner that he fulfilled his ambitions.

He was  never swayed by money or the level of influence he enjoyed in society, but appeared a simple, unassuming person who always treated the other person as a human being. Vohara had a strong character and always believed in the truth and spoke the truth without any hesitation or fear. As one who understood the true meaning of the word ‘Love’ he always advised his children Varuni, Ranjana, Viranai and Vinoto to be kind to one another and to the world at large.

Watching a peaceful death of a human being reminds us of a falling star; one of a million lights in a vast sky that flares up for a brief moment only to disappear into the endless night forever’ – Elisabeth Kuble-Ross

May he attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana

Dr.TILAK S. FERNANDO

One Response to “VOHARA DE SILVA: PAGODA TEA ROOMS’ BROAD SMILE MANAGER”

  1. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    Late Mahesh and Devaka were two of my good friends at CR&FC. I remember Mr. Abeywardene at Green Cabin. Later I met him as Manager Tissa Wewa Rest House.

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