Indra’s youngest sister, Noeline Simon, shares her recollections
As any close family, we come together for each other in good times and in times of challenge. We have always drawn and provided strength to each other, a reflection of the values and expectations passed on by our parents, though they were not with us very long. The recent tragic loss of our dearest sister Indra, the most beautiful of all of us, both inside and out, will require all of us to draw on that strength as we say our final goodbye. For me her youngest sibling, as the lyrics of “to sir with love” song goes, “But how do you thank someone who has taken you from crayons to perfume? It isn’t easy, but I will try.”
I have sometimes wished to be higher in the order, to wield some hierarchy within the family structure! As I grew older and came into my own, I started to appreciate the privileges of being able to learn from their experience and counsel.
I really did not have much interaction with Indra akka as a young child, as she had by then left home, for university, her first career as a teacher and then marriage. I do recall her coming home to Amma in Jaffna for the birth of her dear daughter Corinne, a happy event. She and Amma were like friends, always chatting quietly about anything and everything. While she was always kind, generous and loving, she made sure Amma was not being lenient with me, just because I was the youngest, always high expectations for all of us. I saw my sister at her saddest, when she returned to Colombo for Amma’s funeral in 1972, just days after waving her goodbye at the airport on her way to Zambia.
It is during my years in England that I got to interact with her more, as well as Ivan Athan and her children Ajith and Corinne. She took me to my very first hair appointment, a Vidal Sassoon salon, nothing less will do. She taught me the importance of grooming, from manicure pedicure to facials at Liberty’s in Oxford street and make-up. She came with me to buy my wedding dress, koorai saree and order the Thali. Why not, she was always there for all of us, not just me.
Parties at Indra akka’s home, were known for its elaborate home cooked meals and hospitality. I would go to her home, first in Raynes Park and then Cheam, a night or two before the party to help her. Menu would include such items as sweet and sour prawns, devilled beef, eggplant, beans curry, crab curry or salad to name a few. To be followed by, biscuit pudding, pineapple upside down, homemade cherry coulis over vanilla ice cream. There was never any left overs after one of Indra akka’s parties!
Rich cakes for Christmas and family weddings was another ritualistic experience. Waking up early on a Saturday to bake the cake, do the almond icing, cut wrapping papers, apply icing on 10 trays of cake, cut equal sized pieces and wrap it all up. Done to a level of perfection that it could be put on display at Harrods, and it would have gone like “hot cakes”. If I am complimented today by friends after a party at my home, it’s all due to what I learned in the kitchens at Raynes park and Cheam.
My sister and I quite frequently ended up in the same British Rail train to London, Victoria on our way to work, she hopping on at Cheam and me at the Carshalton Beeches station. She would read her Daily Mail, with some real news but mostly the latest antics of the Royals and me with my then love for the left leaning Guardian. My sister, a professional accountant, worked at prestigious organizations throughout her long career. However, I cannot recall a time that she talked to anyone about her success. Yet it was loud and clear to all, she did not need to broadcast.
As a student studying in London, I was a regular weekend visitor at the homes of all my five siblings in London. One of my favourite activities at Indra Akka’s, other than being a part-time Sous-chef, was watching old black and white movies on BBC-2 with Corinne, lazing away all bundled up under a blanket. Instead of telling us off for being lazy, she would bring us snacks and tea, an intermission feast. Yet, she will constantly be doing chores, cooking, cleaning, ironing, reviewing files from work, etc., she was hardly ever was seen to take a rest, but always seeing to the comforts of all around her.
While her talents and achievements were many, she was at her happiest and proudest when she talked about her children, Ajith and Corinne and their many achievements. More lately, the focus were her three handsome grandsons; they adored their Grandmother, as we saw and heard at her 80th birthday last year. Our sister Indra, was truly a beautiful and graceful lady in every sense, quite possibly from a by-gone era. She was generous at the same time selfless; she was always giving, never taking or expecting anything in return. She was helpful to us all and played an important but a quiet role in all our lives, yet I do not recall a time where she wanted or sought prominence, even within the family.
Our sincere condolences to Ivan Athan, Ajith, Corinne, Rhys, Edward and Harry. May she rest in peace in her final home in all the glory that she justly deserves in heaven.
Noeline Simon (Indra's youngest sibling)
Please see the Expressions of Sympathy page for floral and other remembrances and a memorial endowment.
Please send your messages and tributes via the "Messages and Tributes" page on this website. This will help us to collate these more easily for Mum and the family.