He is the happiest man
who can see the connection
between the end and the beginning of life.
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Saddened by the loss, I write to pay tribute to my friend Sarath Fernando who died yesterday after a brief illness. First I knew him only as my friend Pushpa’s husband, the quiet thoughtful man with a good rhythm for Jive. We were of the same ‘dancing circle’.
Later I learnt of his knowledge, tact and personality when he surprised me by taking the Strategic Management lecture at the University of Moratuwa. I was reading for my Masters in Business Management in 2010. Sarath impressed us with his vast knowledge and experience. He kept on saying I want to share this story with you.. and then one after the other told us tales that would illustrate a management concept, of leadership, the spirit of teamwork, on communication and motivation.
Through these tales he came across as a honest man who had worked himself up first in the line of Accounting and Finance then management, later production, plantations and at the highest level of Strategic planning. He was the Director/CEO at Bogawantalawa Tea Estates Plc.
He was a prolific reader. What he didn’t know he found out. When he wanted to do something he just taught himself how. He was smart. Sarath had an MBA from PIM. He taught in several Universities and Institutes and he loved teaching.
At the end of the semester he praised us on our group presentations and rewarded us with an invite to the North Cove cabanas in Bogawantalawa. He and his family made this stay a memorable one. As my second son, Ruveen and Sinithi teased each other, Pushpa and I chatted under the shade of a thatched hut, the beautiful landscape of Hatton rolling below our feet – none of us knew of what was to become. We learnt of Sarath’s generosity and connected up with his family on that trip.
When I learnt of his illness I spoke mostly to his wife Pushpa. I only made brief calls to Sarath. I was rather lost for words and worried of tiring him. A week back I called to tell him that I had read the entire book by Randy Pausch, the famous lecturer at the Carnegie Mellon University, ‘The Last Lecture’. And that I was thinking of him. But I didn’t. Instead I asked him what he was up to – and offered to help him if he want any computer work done.
Death is a mystery and many of us don’t know how to deal with it. I hope his wife and daughter find some solace in the fact that Sarath touched many of our lives and inspired us to work hard. We would remember him as ‘Live Wire’.
No doubt we would all miss him.