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Azaria Nufail - A Graceful Lady (1946-2011)

Acknowledgement: The following article is reproduced in ALMA website with the kind courtesy of "Thorathuru" quarterly magazine published by the Sri Lanka Association of NSW. This article is written by Basil Goonewardena, who had been a close friend of  Br. Nufail & Sis. Azaria since their arrival in Australia back in 1989.


It is with deep sorrow that we record the death of Azaria Nufail in Colombo after a brief illness, a life well spent and well used ending with a happy death. Thus states Leonardo da Vinci "A well-spent life brings happy sleep, a life well used brings happy death ". Azaria's life and death is a classic example of a happy life and a happy death.

My wife and I first met Azaria and her husband Nufail in January 1989 when they were making arrangements to leave our homeland for Australia to join the University of Newcastle. Both ladies arrived in Sydney in mid-February 1989 and while Azaria had accommodation with full board, my wife and another Sri Lankan lady were not so privileged and had only accommodation and had to prepare their own meals.

It was only then that they came to know the extreme generosity of Azaria who was found to bring whatever she was served for breakfast in her home quietly wrapped up to be given to my wife and the other lady. This method of "siphoning off " some of the meals she was served with, continued till the three of them completed their courses of study although Azaria continued her own studies to obtain a Master of Education degree from the University of Newcastle.

At the end of their studies, my wife arrived in Sydney, soon to be followed by Azaria who turned down an offer to continue studies for a Ph.D. from the same University and from this point of time, our two families lived as very close friends helping each other whenever needed to fend-off life's numerous challenges.

Since this time, I have observed Azaria as an extremely generous lady in lending a helping hand to anyone who needs such assistance, especially those who arrive in this country from our motherland and find it hard to begin a new life here.

It was only after a few months that I came to know that Azaria has had a distinguished working record in Sri Lanka. She has commenced her working career as a Lecturer (and later the Principal for four years) of the Alutgama Teachers' Training College while also serving as a UNESCO Consultant, advising the Education Department on the Integrated Curriculum System which was to be introduced to the Education System of the country at the time, followed by a 5 year period as the Principal of the Muslim Ladies College in Bambalapitiya.

During her life Azaria exhibited invaluable personal qualities of extreme generosity, the ability to move with those at the top of the ladder and those way down in the ladder, quite apart from the remarkable ability to forget and forgive whenever such occasions arise. She was a simple person in every way and despite he strong track record in her own education and working life. Innocent as she is, her inner feelings are alway shown in her face.

In Australia, as well as always lending a helping hand to anyone in distress, she served as an Executive Committee Member of the AustraLanka Muslim Association and later continued in the Association as its Editor till her demise. It is no surprise that Azaria was called "Aunty" by everyone in the Sri Lanka Muslin Community.

Last but not the least, it is mandatory that as a fitting tribute to this gracious Lady, it should be our endeavour to join hands with a charity very close to her heart, viz. the Muslim Womens' Study Circle (a brainchild of none other than Mrs. Jezima Ismail, the first Principal of the Muslim ladies College in Colombo) and organize a charitable contribution annually for the most deserving student in the Study Circle, a privately-run organization.

So, our dear Azaria, you have come, you have served and gone away. We shall meet you again in the sandy shores someday, somewhere, somehow. Thank you dearly and warmly for your company and for all you have done during a flamboyant lifespan.

As Marc Antony quotes "Her life was gentle, and the elements so mixed in her that the nature might stand up and say to all the world, 'This was a Lady!' "


(By Basil Goonewardene)

Courtesy: "Thorathuru" magazine, Sri Lanka Association of NSW, (March 2011)



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