The guarantee shroff

C.K. Sankarakumaran stepped into the shoes of his father and grandfather as a guarantee shroff. He reflects on his two homes of Kandy and Jaffna. Photography by Kannan Arunasalam and Menika van der Poorten. Archive photography by Studio Times, Colombo.

Join the discussion: 8 comments

  • Kannan Arunasalam says:

    When we first met the Sankarakumarans, they were preparing for the Kandy Esala Perahera that was coming up later in the month. Every year, the Sankarakumarans hosted a private party from the veranda of their family home in Kandy town. It’s one of the best spots to see the procession as it passes by. It was their way of giving back to the people that have helped out in their household. Mrs Sankarakumaran was busy getting her kitchen ready for the annual function. To add to her chores, their children and grandchildren, now living in America, England and Australia, also planned to visit. Whenever we visited Kandy on the project, we often dropped in on the Sankarakumarans. They ran an open house and despite these commitments, they were always generous with their time and hospitality.

    On the walls of their lovely home, hung portraits which took you on a journey that started in Jaffna and travelled across the hill country, and which spanned five generations.

    In true Jaffna style, our initial conversations explored my Jaffna connections; where I was from and whether they knew anyone in my family. Jaffna, and it seemed Kandy too, were small worlds. Not surprisingly, it turned out that both my uncles, who lived in Kandy for much of their lives, were friends of the Sankarakumarans. “How are Wicky’s children doing these days?” he asked of my cousins, whose father I always knew simply as “Kandy Mama”.

    Although the Sankarakumarans haven’t visited Jaffna for a very long time, they remained connected to their hometown. It was all around us on the walls and even in the tastes of Jaffna that Mrs Sankarakumaran served us. Homemade sweets and savouries from Mrs Sankarakumaran’s kitchen. With each visit we tasted a different delicacy. Laddus and mothahams and tasty vadais.

    Even though the memories have been well preserved in the sights and smells of Jaffna that lingered around the house, Mr and Mrs Sankarakumaran were also Kandyans at heart. It is not impossible to have two homes.

    Mr Sankarakumaran was a wonderful conversationalist. “Jaffna is sometimes called the Scotland of Ceylon. I suppose because both are equally tightfisted,” Mr Sankarakumaran chortled. How could you not be tempted to listen on? I helped myself to another laddu, eased back into my chair and listened, as Mr Sankarakumaran took me on a journey back to another time and place.

    • arundathi says:

      His son Sathananthan was my batchmate, my group mate and my body mate in medical school at peradeniya and we visited the Sankarakumarans many times as we were always starving living on the campus at Peradeniya University. The Sankarakumarans were very hospitable and we never felt any difference about being Hindu or Buddhist, Tamil or Sinhala. We had such great times. My husband is from Kandy and his parents knew and spoke very highly of this charming family. I hope “Satha” as we called him is fine. Later we met Nirmala his sister as a trainee in Pathology. Like the brother, she is very charming and hard working. Sri Lanka has lost good people as they are both living and working abroad.

  • Shan Nalliah, Gandhian, Norway says:

    Thank you for helping us meet our lost relatives from every corner of this wonderful land!

  • avtar says:

    A very candid narrative of an interesting personality who combined the best of both cities during such a turbulent time in our country. The Sankarakumarans have mixed themselves well in to the multicultural and multiethnic fabric of Kandy with such ease.

    Very good work, I am Jaffna!!

  • (@iam_project) (@iam_project) says:

    I was saddened to hear of C.K. Sankarakumaran’s passing earlier this year disappearing #lka narratives

  • (@iam_project) (@iam_project) says:

    “Jaffna is sometimes called the Scotland of Ceylon, because both are equally tightfisted” Sankarakumaran 1926 – 2012

  • Kaushinie Panditaratne says:

    Thank you so VERY VERY much for this glimpse of a man I admired and liked for ages. Uncle Sanka has been an institution in Kandy society from his time at the Hatton National Bank, and for many years after his retirement, he continued to foster, bond and deepen the relationships he first forged professionally simply by being his gentle unassuming and wonderful self. After my move to Europe I met him rarely but was oft and again a topic when I spoke to my own father when inquiring after friends left behind. But now I have his twinkling smile to look at again. He and the family are a wonderful testemant to how mutual harmony during the hardest of times can be preserved however hard it may be emotionally. You have chosen wisely to include him!


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