In a eulogy at Thlak’s funeral on July 02nd, 2015, his eldest granddaughter Miss. Saskia said: “He was a man of great knowledge but never ceased to learn more. At the remarkable age of eighty four (84) he decided to go back to University and finally study what he has always been passionate about – History. For several years it gave him such joy, I will never forget how grandfather awoke at dawn every Saturday and Sunday to study at the University Library, for his examinations. His passion to learn was not only from books. He believed he could learn from another. It did not matter to him where you came from city or village, what you did, if young or old, rich or poor. He treated everyone with dignified respect and whatever one had to say he instead carefully.”
Tilakaratne Wijesinghe, affectionately known as Tilak, to his friends, was born in the village of Halmillewa, Kurunegala District, on May, 31st, 1925. His father, late Menikarala Wijesinghe was a former Principal of Siddhartha Maha Vidyalaya, Halmillewa. His mother late Mrs. Sumanawathie Wijesinghe was a housewife. He was the eldest in a family of five sisters.
His primary education was at the Halmillewa Junior School. From age eight years he was a student of St John’s Girls’ School, Panadura. At the age of eleven years he was admitted to the Grade 05 class at Ananda College, where he was a hosteller till completion of his secondary education. He was a member of the Boxing team as well as the Cadet battalion, in addition to being a brilliant student during his entire school career at Ananda.
Tilak become a Samasamajist while still at school learning his father’s theosophy. The Lanka Samasamaja Party (LSSP) was the first political party that attempted to build an anti-imperialist mass movement on a national scale. The LSSP, as a policy was against the village headman as well as vel-vidane systems of local and agrarian administrations under colonial rule. When the British governor visited Ananda to inspect Air Raid Precautions, Tilak ran through the school corridors at night and threw LSSP leaflets against British imperialism and the governor, into the classrooms.
He joined the Technical College at Maradana in 1943, after successfully completing the Higher School Certificate (HSC) examination and followed a course in Civil Engineering. He obtained the Bachelor of Science (Engineering) Certificate from the University of London and was an Associate of the Institute of Engineers, Australia.
Tilak first appointment as an Engineer of the Public Works Department (PWD) was in 1947. His dedicated and devoted services were recognized by regular promotion within the Department, reaching the level of General Manager, before retiring at the age of fifty five (55). The Ella–Wellawaya–Maskeliya and Kirillawala–Kadawatha Roads were initiated by him. He studied construction of bridges in 1967 on a scholarship awarded by the Government of Japan.
Tilak ended his career in the Public Service as General Manager of the State Development and Construction Corporation (SD&CC). After retirement, he worked as a consultant in Nigeria for a period of six years.
He was a well known intellectual especially amongst the fraternity of professional engineers. Tilak was a founder member of the Citizens Movement for Good Governance (CIMOG), the Organization of Professional Associations (OPA) and the Senior Old Anandians. He worked with great commitment to set up the SOA family of oldest living Anandians in 1991 together with the late Ranapala, Bodinagoda and G.A.P. Dhanatunga. He was elected President of the SOA in 2005 and held office till 2007, demonstrably his love and gratitude to his Alma Mater.
Despite his busy professional life, he did not fail to swim, every Sunday morning at the Otters Swimming Club (OSC) of which he was a member from the age of seventeen (17).
Tilak actively practiced the Middle Path, the Noble Eight Fold Path and concentrated meditation at meals. In addition he wrote articles on topics such as mathematic solutions and Sri Lanka History in the print media.
He fulfilled his duties to his family with care and love for his wife Nalinee, daughter Menuka, author and playwright, son Tilan who was former Ananda cricket captain, Chairman of Board of Investment and Forbes and Walker and youngest son Nishan who has settled in the USA. Tilak was an endearing grandfather to seven grandchildren.
May he attain the bliss of Nibbana!