Age is just a number, and two strong women show that anything is possible if you put your mind to it!

According to the proverb “If there is a will, there is a way,” nothing else is required if a person has a goal and a clear path to follow. You only need a sharp mind. It is universally accepted that everyone will experience hardships and hard times in life. However, someone with a strong will and perseverance can get past all of this.

Every year March 8th is reserved as ‘World Women’s Day’ to appreciate women. Is it really practical? Do we need a date like that? A woman works hard 365 days a year for her family, for the society, for raising children and for her husband, parents, brothers and sisters.

We heard from Jaffna about a remarkable achievement of an elderly woman against a backdrop of the heat of Women’s Day that has not yet subsided. S. Muttani Punitavati was a previous Jaffna Victoria College student. She worked as a government clerk now retired and is 80 years old. She had finished second in the 100-meter race, beating young alumni at the school’s inter-house sporting event. Six former students under the age of 45 and four former students under the age of 55 competed against her. This elderly woman placed second in the competition’s final standings. Muttani conveyed to society through this triumph that anyone can succeed if they approach any challenge with a strong mind.

She might have participated in this competition with some of her contemporary friends out of respect for the Victoria College, where she had attended as a young student. In this playground, where she had walked thousands of times that day, she must not have felt out of place. She must have believed that her daughter could walk there in the present as well as in the past. Even though she was 80 years old, she had no issues.

There are no longer any teachers in that school who taught her letters back then. Naturally, we think of the song “Sulenge Lelena” performed by Mr. Shalitha Abeywickrama about those wonderful school days.

Our own school was our own mother

We don’t get that day again…’

When we hear that song, we feel a tremendous feeling. The memories of that beautiful life spent in the company of the school, whether we are Sinhala or Tamil, or belong to any race or religion, will never disappear from our minds. Eighty-year-old S. respects the school he wrote for as long as there is life. It must have been the same in Muttani Punitavati. That is why she did not forget the beautiful school memory. That’s why she participated in the school’s inter-house sports even at the age of eighty.

In addition to the previously planned prizes, the organizing committee had arranged to give her some other prizes during the prize giving ceremony. It is a tribute to her courage. Also, the people who had come to watch the sports events had given her many cash prizes. If you have the courage, age is just a number. Many people who saw this woman’s sports skills said, ‘Oh, our grandmothers can’t run and jump like this’. Everyone was surprised to see her competitiveness. It was an event that surprised them that such an old woman won such a competition. Mrs. Muttani Punitawathi ran 100 meters wearing a saree. Many people think that wearing a saree is very difficult. She also won that challenge very easily.

In the heat of celebrating International Women’s Day, we are constantly reminded of another such courageous woman who thinks age is just a number. She is 95-year-old mother Aslin Lilavati Dharmaratne. She is still facing exam cut-offs. She appeared for Tripitaka Dharma and Pali Language Degree Examination in 2021. At that time, she was 93 years old. She passed the test with flying colours showing her morale and determination.

Mother Aslin Lilavati Dharmaratne was born in the year 1928. Horana Millawa is her village. She spent her childhood as the elder sister of two sisters and was educated at Millawa Girls’ School. She also worked as an English teacher for a while, and her dream was to become a lawyer. As a result of her efforts to fulfil that expectation, she appeared for the notary examination in 1961 and scored the highest marks, becoming the first in the island that year. Also, Mrs. Lilawathi has made history as the first woman to join the Sri Lanka Notary Federation that year.

That conference became one of the turning points in her life because she met her husband there. Accordingly, she married Mr. Chitrasoma Jayalath in 1962. After 08 years of marriage, her husband left this world, and at that time she was a mother of four daughters.

Aslin Lilavati Dharmaratne is a strong woman; she faced life with a strong mind along with her four little daughters. She worked day and night to make them useful people for society and country. Her hard work to educate her daughter by working as a notary has already paid off. She says with modest pride that all four of her daughters are graduates. She never tried to correct her children by reprimanding them. She instilled in the children that education cannot be stolen by anyone.

Mother Leelawathi’s eldest daughter is a Western Provincial Health Director, second daughter is a professor at a university in Australia, third daughter is a teacher at Nawalapitiya Pathtunupitiya High School, and fourth daughter is a lawyer and acting magistrate.

She bravely faced the fight of life after the untimely death of her beloved husband, who stood by her side like the shadow of her life’s journey. Today has fulfilled every good wish she ever had for children. She put in countless hours of work and succeeded in life.

One of her daughters said, ‘Mother wrapped all the children in graduation gowns and put black caps on their heads. It is our dream to wrap that cloth and put a black hat on my mother’s head…’

Many people think that one should study for a degree only at a young age. But if there is a need, if there is courage, then age is not a problem. That is the valuable lesson that this talented woman taught us all.

It has been proven in many places that women are smarter than men. Like Mrs. Leelawathi Dharmaratne, Mrs. Punithawathi proved that age is just a number.

Mother Lilavati says that one should pass exams not only to get a job, but also for mental satisfaction as well as knowledge and intelligence. Having passed the Tripitaka Dharma and Pali language degree test with top marks, her hope is to obtain the master’s degree at Kelaniya University. She is also among the first ten people in the world who passed a recognized exam at an advanced age. Also, she has become the only woman in Sri Lanka who has passed such an examination.

The example she gives to the entire generation of women is a very valuable one. That is, not to spend time in vain, but to use that time for something meaningful.

Despite their age, both these women face life happily. They were not a burden on other people’s lives. Mrs. Punitawathi is spending her life as a state clerk and Mrs. Lilawathi as a notary public. They face life happily. There is no regret in those lives. They do these things for the happiness of life and not because of lust for power. Ms. Lilavati and Ms. Punitavati are a great role model for everyone who is suffering from power lust in today’s society.

Nowadays women are regretting what they don’t have. These beautiful women extend their hands and invite the whole generation of women to stand up courageously without being defeated in the face of life’s downfalls. Good luck to all of you to accept that lovely invitation and face life fearlessly…

Mothers, may you both be more healthy… we ‘Mawbima’ wish strength and courage to bring glory to the country and live happily ever after.

Nilanthi Renuka

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