A family row has broken out in public between Lanka’s top notch singing legend Victor Ratnayake and his son over the singer’s live in lover, 45 years younger to him.
Using his Facebook account the son Lelum Ratnayake put the family feud in the public spotlight by stating last week ‘My father passed away on 1st of Match 2017.’ When a storm of protests erupted over his macabre comment of his father’s death when he is much alive, and fans expressed their opprobrium over the shocking obituary notice, Lelum struck back three days later with a stinging attack on his father’s love affair.
In a pre-recorded video posted on his face book, the son claims that his father, the 75 year old widowed singer, is living with a woman of around thirty years of age and that she has hoodwinked his father to win his heart with the sole aim of gaining his money. He then proceeds to reveal to the public a great many personal details of his father’s recent lifestyle.
He claims: “This is a master plan. She was working in a bank where my father had many fixed deposits. She has driven a wedge between my father and us, my elder brother, my sister and me. On March 1st my father called me and my brother and said that the relationship between father and son has ended. He said not to even come for his funeral.”
“Mt father has been taking this woman out in public and has been introducing her to his friends as his elder brother’s daughter. But let me tell you, his elder brother died long ago and has no daughters. People ask us who this woman is and it is we who have to answer. There is a limit to it. We feel so embarrassed. It started about three years ago. Her game plan was to get my father under her spell. The second was to poison his mind against us. She says that it is because we do not look after our father that she is lovingly tending to him. Recently we had my mother’s alms giving. It was held at my elder brother’s home. Though we invited my father to come, he didn’t. He was prevented from so doing by this woman. “
“That night he had got very drunk and had even met with a small accident the following day when his car stuck a curb near Waters Edge. She informed a family friend who informed us and we rushed there. My wife also accompanied me. I scolded the woman in filth and so did my wife and even slapped her when this woman asked her what right she had to intervene. My wife said she is the daughter-in-law. It is that revenge that the woman is taking from us now for this incident took place at a time when my father was drunk.”
“She has blindfolded my father. This woman has fed him a ‘vashi’ – magic love portion – and he is in a trance. She has come to take all his wealth. We have no problem with that. Even now our father gives us anything we want. But my brother took his revenge and banned her from coming for my father’s special 75th birthday show last month which the president also attended. In that instance my father agreed and did not bring her. Now this woman has big arrears against us. If you love my father, whatever religion you may belong to, please pray and hold Bodhi poojas to separate this woman from my father.”
So what do you think of the son washing the father’s linen in public? Are the soiled hands well rinsed and smelling of Vim or do they stink with the Pynol of filial ingratitude?
In the local firmament of artistes, Victor Ratnayake has always been a comet following its own highly eccentric elliptical orbit. In his own way, Victor is a trendsetter, Lanka’s own flower power kid of the seventies adorned with Englebert sideburns and George Harrison long hair. But he was more than a western wannabe. He is the first Lankan to have held a one man concert, the legendary ‘SA’ concert, which he first staged in 1973 at the Lumbini Hall and continued for the next 39 years, holding his last, the 1450th performance, in 2012 at the same venue where it was first held.
He had the confidence to go solo at a time when Lankan ‘beat shows’ were confined to individual fifteen minutes skits by various singers and bands. No doubt he was inspired by his conviction that his music — a “blend of Western music with Ragadari classical music” — would hold the audience spellbound for an entire three-hour evening. He was right. It did, even leaving the audience clamouring for more.
Born in a small village near Kadugannawe, his father was an ayurvedic doctor. On his ninth birthday, he received a gift from his father: a harmonium. It set him on the musical road and, after studying at the State Musical College, wrote his first song, an ode to the Buddha at the age of 22. Thereafter he also served as a music teacher at a government school at Bandarawela. After a long and hard struggle, making do with a few radio appearances, in 1973, he made it to the top league in Lanka’s musical world with his solo concert ‘SA”. From then on, there was no looking back.
In the course of his rising singing career neither did he neglect to tend for his wife and four children. And whilst he gave pleasure to millions with his songs, he also suffered his own share of publicly known sorrow when, 13 years ago, his wife died. Tragedy was to strike again when, in August last year, his eldest daughter Chandanie, also a singer, died of cancer.
Victor Ratnayake, a legend in his own lifetime, is now 75 years of age. No one, not even his son, has suggested that he has in any way lost his wits or his reasoning powers or that he has slid into a state of senile dementia and is a sitting duck for a huntress on the prowl for easy game. He may be a fool in love as many wise men often are, but that doesn’t mean that he is bereft of his faculties, both mentally and physically.
Thus in the absence of such mental failings, the following questions must be posed:
Has he no right, in the winter of his years to seek the warm sunshine of a woman, who at the age of thirty, is in the summer of her life? Has he no right to seek in her, no right to crave the tender love and care and the companionship she brings with her to his heart to light up his days and nights and to banish the dark clouds of brooding loneliness that otherwise hover to doom the remainder of his life in solitude? As he says in song, ‘What’s the moonbeam for if you’re not beside me in my loneliness?’
Has anyone the right to dictate terms to him and order how he must live? Decry his love, however misguided it may appear to be to others, for a woman in whom he has reposed his heart and his love and finds in her endearing warmth a redeeming comfort no one else can provide?
Can his own children, wedded as they are to their own marriages, children and family responsibilities, ever act as substitutes, to a woman’s touch to replace the glaring void of female companionship? The heart has its reasons and needs no explanations. Is there any difference between the right to live and the right to love? Has anyone the right to snuff the primordial fire when it lights the flame in the lamp of love?
On March 4th, following his son’s callous Facebook outburst announcing his death, Victor Ratnayake, in an address to his fans, responded thus: “I, who have brought musical compositions about love and life to the people’s door for the last three decades and more, know a lot about life and love. After my beloved wife’s death thirteen years ago, I became a lone star. To become a light to another woman who had been embroiled in sorrow and sadness, was the most difficult decision I have ever taken in my life. Now I am a lover. Like you all, I am a man in love. “
His son seems to think otherwise. Lelum Ratnayake is also a singer, initiated into the musical world by his father. And given a head start over other struggling artistes and given the loudest mic to make his voice soar above other voices solely due to his father’s name and fame. Last year in a TV show he sang one of his father’s songs, ‘Deiva yogaya’ — When Fate calls — and when asked by the TV host how many times he had heard his father singing it, he said “too many times for me to remember.” Apparently he has also forgotten the meaning of the lyrics, how one must answer when destiny summons, in love and life both.
He has now sought to put his father in the straitjacket of how to live his life according to his own dictates merely because he is embarrassed of his father’s love for a girl much younger to him. But pray, what right does he have to put the father in the public pillory and hurl rotten eggs and tomatoes on his Facebook, because he has come to the end of his tether in having to bear — what he calls — the embarrassment caused by his father’s love. He says, “I have come to the limit of being embarrassed.”
And finally, after acting as his father’s personal iconoclast and, having brought his sire down to the ground and rubbed his nose in the dust before the public gaze with his Facebook double tirades, he appeals to the same public of whatever religious denomination, to pray in their churches, kovils and mosques and exhorts the Buddhists to hold Bodhi poojas invoking the aid of the gods to break his father’s relationship with the woman he loves. “Pray, to separate this woman from my father, if you love my father, whatever religion you may belong to, please pray and hold Bodhi poojas to separate this woman from my father,” he beseeches the public.
One can perhaps understand a son’s feelings when he finds, even 13 years after his mother’s death, his father has found solace in another woman’s love and arms. But funnily enough, he finds no objection to his father having other women but is against the one woman his father loves. Apparently he is comfortable with lust but unhappy with love.
But, whatever the quality of Victor’s passion, does it grant the son the licence to shout from the rooftops and expose his father in so shameful a manner and go pell-mell on a perverse egoistical trip to make wild allegations against both father and his consort, to suggest his father is a drunken sugar daddy with his brains in his pants and the woman a gold digger with a master plan to swindle him of his wealth tucked in her bra?
Perhaps the root of his offence lies in his ignorance, which the Buddha explained, was the root from which all woe springs and deserves universal compassion. Though he reveals a fair idea of how Buddhism is practised today with his plea to the public to hold Bodhi poojas and rain curses on his father’s love affair, it is clear by his actions that he holds not an iota of understanding of Buddhist philosophy.
Draw your mind this Poya Day to the first lesson the Buddha taught mankind even without uttering a word: the importance of gratitude. This the Buddha demonstrated during the first week after attaining enlightenment when he sat mediating before the sacred Bo tree which had given him shelter from the elements and created the soothing environ to become a Buddha.
It is clear that Lelum Ratnayake who publicly castigated and almost castrated his father who had given him life, who had provided for him during his growing years and financed his education and Canadian adventure, who had introduced him to the music scene in which he has now become a star and who, still provides for him, even now — as Lelun himself disclosed in his Facebook attack, “Even now we have only to ask and my father provides without stint” – has not grasped the Buddha’s first lesson of gratitude but instead has become a prime example of a crass ingrate. As Shakespeare, summing up human nature, made King Lear say:”How sharper than a serpent’s tooth is to have a thankless child.” For his own good, it is only to be hoped, that even now he atones this unforgivable sin and mends his wretched ways and refrains from any further acts of character patricide.
But as Victor Ratnayake put it at a recent foreign concert: “Love knows no age, no clime no plane. One can love at any age, provided one does not do so in a way that one gets a thrashing. How true. And what a pity when the first stone is cast by one’s own seed.
In other words, to echo an old familiar English song, what Victor Ratnayake wishes to convey to all is”: If loving her is wrong, I don’t wanna be right: If being right means being without her, I’ll rather live a wrong doing life.”
If this singing legend of Lanka wishes to be the last of the romantics, let him. That’s his right. That perhaps is his destiny. Live and let live. And let there be love.