Visakha Cooke, ‘Mrs. Cooke’ as I called her, passed away in the early hours of this morning, Tuesday 18 May 2021.
I go back to the Subs Desk of the Daily News. This was 1980. I was just after my ALs in August that year and biding time to enter University one year later.
It was a grand era at Lake House. JR. Jayawardenehad swept into power three years prior and Ranapala Bodinagoda reigned supreme at the helm as Chairman Lake House.
Clarence Fernando was the Editor of the Daily News at that time and at the Subs Desk were Dudley Jansz, Thomas Ramanathan, Rohana Aryaratna, Chandra Silva, among others.
There were the veterans K. Nadarajah and P. Balasingham, both my mentors.
Across the room at the Sports Desk were the legendary M.M. Thawfeeq and his son Sa’adi.
The ‘raw-est’ of them at the Subs Desk were Muditha Senadheera and myself. Also fresh from school were Ravinatha Aryasinha, Amal Jayasinghe, Mario Gomez, Paneethe Ameresekere etc.
I sat directly in front of Mrs. Cooke. That was my spot. I sensed an innate maternal instinct in her as she literally took Muditha and I under her wing.
I wasn’t surprised when I later learnt that she had a lot of sons, among whom was Eugene whom I knew very well.
Mrs. Cooke had a perpetual smile on her face. She didn’t wear it. It came from within her. It came from her inner being.
There was also a spring in her step. I can still visualise her walking into office, a spring in her gait and that smile on her face.
When most others called her Visakha, I stuck to Mrs. Cooke. She never asked for it but with a gentle and ladylike manner such as hers, ‘Visakha’ would have been harsh, even grossly disrespectful.
I remember her advising me a lot about life, about the careers I was contemplating venturing into, about my university years that lay ahead. She spoke about the importance of values in life, about respect, about gratitude, about honesty.
As an 18 year old there was so much I learnt from her. It was as though she were advising one of her own sons.
And so you went away today, my dearest Mrs. Cooke. You journey on.
The fragrant memory of that gentle and wonderful human being you were, will always linger on in my heart, until my own dying day.
May your Journey through Samsara be speedy ! Theruwan Saranai !
PHOTOCREDIT – Eugene Cooke Face Book Page