By Thilak S. Fernando - Nov. 1997

In her cosy flat in London Dipani Perusinghe spends most of her winter months in hibernation, seated close to a glowing electric heater. Being on her own, she cannot help but gaze at the gloomy sky that comes in to her focus automatically when she relaxes in her favourite chair. The weather outside looks miserable, cold and depressing. She hates to make the short walk to the nearest supermarket even to get her weekly rations when it is bitterly cold. There is an element of risk too, if the road surface has turned into an ice-skating ring, due to sub-zero temperatures. If it snows, she will be marooned for days inside her own flat. She would then be unable to get her basic necessities, unless of course a Samaritan comes to her aid.

Dipani Perusinghe, known to many as the ' Fulham Auntie' now laments having left Sri Lanka approximately two decades ago, leaving behind luxuries of her home comforts, good friends, warm weather and a caring neighbourhood where she was respected, held to a high esteem and treated like a queen. She, however, has learned to think philosophically and consoles herself by putting all her experiences in life as Providence or due to the Law of Cause and Effect (Karma), according to her Buddhist upbringing.

At every Autumn, when winter approaches Fulham Aunty's thoughts become ponderous to the extent that she begins to compare her own life with that of the Autumn. In mind, thought and action she could still be a challenge to any teenage girl, and her capacity to mix with any age group makes her ever so popular.

That very outgoing personality of hers has made many Sri Lankans, not only living in Britain but all the way from home, to come to her with their numerous problems. She has been a tower of strength to many a Sri Lankan in different ways, from the time she stepped on to the British soil - even as a student . Now, especially at times of winter, when she is gazing at the gloomy skies, her mind wanders and tries to battle with her memory to question whether the hand of generosity, kindness, caring attitude and the hospitality she extended to many fellow Lankans over two decades, has been worthwhile! Have they all misused her kindness for their own gain and selfish goals ?

It is natural if it hurts her to think today that many students, professionals, & holiday makers who made use of her kindness and the comforts of her London flat had been exploiting her hospitality to the extent that at various stages she has had to forego her home telephone line, the only means of communication with the rest of the world.

She has been a vigorous student at Aquinas University College, Colombo during the Registrar of Studies Mr. Horace Perera, along with contemporaries such as Vasudeva Nanayakkara and Ravi Jayawardena. She had always shown an inclination not only for professional studies, which she completed in London, but her latent poetic talents even as a student. Her rhythmic English flow on poetry was evident. ' Lovers Dream' which she wrote during her teen years will depict what a dreamer she has been.

                        LOVERS DREAM
        Lovers Dream in a long delight,
        Stealthily moves from the arms of light,
        Cuckoo sings in the spring of bright,
        Vision falls  in a dark midnight.
        Shadow wrangles in her sleep,
        Lips murmur in a spiritual streak,
        Sinew thread from the fingers creak,
        To touch the feelings that is squint.

        The rainbow colours in her eyes,
        Spatter through the candle-light,
        Tinted wings, for her to fly,
        Strident footsteps in stampede fight.  

        Touch to the quick emotion thrills,
        Meadows seen in the greenery fields,
        Birds waffle in a blinking glimpse,
        Clouds glowed in a torrid flint.

        The fingers grappled through the veil,
        Lover stood by the emerald trail,
        "Come to my arms" and kiss me around,
        The image dazzled in a symphony ground.

        Fragrance blewn the silent air,
        Dew drops geared in a sombre flare,
        Tender feelings in a luminous glare,
        Love in a dream world a lyrical care".

Her personal experience with Sri Lankans in London has undoubteldy been an entirely different kind of university education for her. Now, as the days become darker, shorter and colder and her telephone too tries to reign the same silence as those who have made use of her in the past, it is natural that her thoughts would deflect more and more towards the sunny and warm roots at home. She has now decided to throw the towel in and get back to Sri Lanka.

Dipani Perusinghe is counting the days to go for good to Sri Lanka and bask in the sun. She is not aware whether or not the climate, the living conditions and the cost of living in Sri Lanka have become too hot too, for her to survive in Sri Lanka after getting used to a different orderly life in Britain. But one good hope is that the increasing Sterling Pound will give her extra Rupees to live in luxuary, with her converted foreign exchange-savings.

Engrossed in the past at times she wanders in her own poetic world. And it was during such a journey that she jotted down the poem, " How I feel" :

                        " HOW I FEEL"
                A simple child that draws its breath,
                And feels life in every limb,
                Together around I played and slide,
                When love is an unerring light,
                And joy its own security; 
                The days over no trust in love and joy:

                Grieve not, rather find strength,
                What remains behind?
                The soothing thoughts that stick my mind
                In vacant or in pensive mood;
                many disliked, mocked, parodied and derided;
                The image flicked like a bonfired flame;
                Sorrows brimmed in my dingy room
                Life's purple tide began to flow
                In languid streams through every thrilling vein

                Dim were my swimming eyes, my pulse beat slow;
                And my full heart was swelled to dear delicious pain,
                Life left my loaded heart, a sizzle chain,
                Closing eyes in the moonlight beam,
                Tears fizzled like the drops of dew,
                Each virtue dwells and runs the streams, 
                Sweet melodies speak to me in the solitary screen.

                Green birds raffle their brilliant,
                Plumage with a dwingling light,
                And climbed the wanderings, but still
                Not relieved the pain;
                In the midst of all preserved me still,
                As life is a pilgrimage".

In my mind, she still has the potential and the time in the world, to write her own autobiography or compile her anthology of poetry. And to describe Dipani Perusinghe in the same jargon would be:

"Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
 The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear.
 Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And wastes its sweetness in the desert air."