Prime Minister Narendra Modi, declared India’s cherubic High Commissioner, Taranjit Singh Sandhu at a recent lecture, is “not only the leader of the largest democracy in the world, but also a leader with the largest popular mandate in the world.”
True. There are more attributes to Premier Modi. One that did not go unnoticed during his four-hour visit to Sri Lanka last Sunday is his ability to recognise faces.
The son, Namal Rajapaksa looked very much a replica of his father Mahinda in the traditional, immaculate white national dress and the kurakkan shawl around their necks. The difference, as one Indian close protection group guy said, was the size. One was bigger and the other smaller. “They look like two dolls,” he joked.
They were gathered at India House along Thurstan Road, the official residence of the Indian High Commissioner. Also, on hand was the usually smiling Dinesh Gunawardena, the leader in Parliament of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). They were awaiting the arrival of Premier Modi who was at the Janadipathi Mandiraya (President’s House) for President Maithripala Sirisena’s lunch banquet.
The Indian Premier arrived and greeted the trio. He then spoke on a range of issues with Rajapaksa and Gunawardena. Premier Modi remembered meeting Namal when he visited New Delhi together with his father in September, last year. “How are you,” he asked Namal with a broad smile. The young Rajapaksa’s answer was something which many Sri Lankan damsels have been waiting for.
“I am getting married on September 17,” he replied. Premier Modi asked him “Can you tell me why you chose September 17?” Namal appeared somewhat nonplussed and even nervous. “I don’t know. It’s just a date,” he responded. It took Papa Rajapaksa to say that was an auspicious day.
“You know why I asked you that question,” Premier Modi queried and added “it is my birthday.” He was born in 1950 and Namal has chosen a good date, he declared to the laughter of many around. By this time, an aide had reminded the Indian Premier for the third time that it was time to leave for the airport.
Who is the lucky lady who is ending Namal’s bachelorhood? She is the only daughter of Thilak Weerasinghe, a well-known sports enthusiast and founder of Lanka Sports Reisen (LSR). The mother is Aruni Wickremarathna, onetime national sprint champion. The company operates nine different hotels.