old with gold!
Mounting a greenly hillside road in Kegalle, the
village Watura stands amidst a tranquil environment
which is occasionally disturbed by resonances like a
shrill cry of a bird. In this village dwells a
living testament to a great blessing; a long healthy
For us to know whether he is the oldest Sri Lankan,
we might have to wait till the general census is
over, but he is worthy to write about. Though 105
years old, he still has an intact memory, still
walks on his own, does his daily chores, and still
has black hair. One might expect a man who is 105
years to be ailing, weak and dependant because it is
the usual situation when one ages.
However, Jamis who is 105 years old, is quite
different from being dependant. Living in a house
situated on a small hill in the village Watura,
Jamis is still energetic and robust. Walking towards
the doorway of his house with his walking stick he
greeted me with a warm smile offering me a seat.
Though he appears to be frail as his physique is
small built, his energetic voice and loquaciousness
lifts the air around him showing vivaciousness at
his old age.
He can still remember his year of birth. “1906,
yes that was the year I was born but I can’t
remember the date or the month. Our IDs were
collected during the JVP insurgency period in 87-89,
I still do not have an ID so I lost track of the
date and the month,” he said.
Talking about his childhood he said he is the eldest
in his family. All of his siblings have passed away
except one younger brother.
Hailing from a village called Galigamuwa in the
Kegalle District, Jamis reminisced about his school
days. However he had been able to attend school only
till grade two since economic barriers had forced
him to drop out of school. “If somebody passes the
seventh grade he was considered to be very educated
those days,” he said smiling.
He talked about what his elders spoke about those
days. “When I was a child I can remember the elders
talking about ‘Sura Saradiel’ because he was also
from Kegalle. They used to tell stories about how he
became a bandit. Saradiel had been begging for milk
when his mother was sick and none of the rich people
had offered him milk. They used to say that that
incident led him to help the poor,” he said
interesting us with his stories though myth or fact.
Witnessing a history of more than 100 years Jamis’
memory is like a time machine. He can recall some of
the memorable events in history. Jamis had started
to work from a very young age and he said he did
many jobs. When the Japanese bombed Colombo he had
been working as a caretaker in an estate in Wattala.
“I was in Colombo when the bombings took place. It
was in 1942, I think it was during April. After they
bombed several places, the next day I even went to
see the place they bombed in Galle Face Green,” he
He added that he can recall how commodities were
scarce and the how tensed it was during the 1915
After doing several jobs he had returned to
Kegalle to work in the base hospital. “I used to
cook for the doctors at the hospital. I can cook
many dishes,” he said proudly.
For the 105 years Jamis had suffered from only one
disease which was serious enough to go to the
hospital. Several years back he had suffered from
pneumonia. “After I worked in the Kegalle Hospital I
worked for a doctor who came to work at the hospital
and I travelled with his family everywhere they
moved. That doctor’s son treated me when I was
having pneumonia. They love me very much because I
know them since the day they were born. They still
visit me,” said Jamis with an innocent smile.
According to Jamis the secret to his long life is
the honesty in his heart. “I think if an employee
works honestly his master prospers. Then the master
also blesses his employee,” he quipped. When asked
whether his secret to a long healthy life is some
especial diet he follows, he laughed it off saying
he eats whatever that is prepared. He said he is not
very particular about his food though he used to
drink one egg coffee every morning.
Although he doesn’t follow a special diet Jamis said
he used an herbal oil everyday on his hair when he
was young. He believes that the oil has made his
hair withstand the graying that comes with ageing.
“I worked in estates and timber sawing places. When
I was working in these places only I found out about
this oil. It is made from a seed called ‘mee’ and
several herbal leaves are mixed into it and I
applied it every morning,” he said.
Though Jamis has four children he said he does not
like to rely on them. Ranjini who is Jamis’s
daughter in law is the one who looks after Jamis.
“More than my sons Ranjini takes care of me,” said
During his free time Jamis said he likes to do
gardening. According to Ranjini he is still very
enthusiastic about agriculture. “I have planted a
guava tree and I still do a little bit of planting
because it has been one of my life long interests.
Now I do not have the strength to plant everything I
want. When I was young I only bought spices from
store. I used to plant all the other needful like
coconut, vegetable, karapincha,” he said.
Jamis has four children, sixteen grand children and
twelve great grand children. He expressed that he
felt downhearted and lonely when his wife passed
away and recently when one of his sons passed away
in March this year. “Most of my friends have passed
away and it is only me now…” Jamis said in a
melancholic tone. Weathering the effects of time and
age Jamis said he is now content about his life
looking back. “I have worked with honesty and even
now I am not entirely dependant. I wash my own
clothes, I do the daily chores. I have not been a
burden to anybody and I am still trying not to be a
burden on anybody,” he said.
Being 105 years old Jamis does not wear
spectacles and he said that though the eyesight of
one eye is diminishing, the other eye is perfect for
him to carry out his daily routine. “I often
reminisce when I am alone. I have no high hopes and
big wishes. I just like to keep to myself and live
my last days happily,” noted Jamis bidding us
farewell and we indeed wish a healthy life for Jamis.
Jamis is a true example to all others who worry
about ageing and other ailments. Jamis has
gracefully accepted the nature’s will and in his old
age his agility and independence is remarkable.