have been married for 28 years and have spent two years together in
Colombo. This is the life of a wife of an army officer. But Sonia
Kottegoda showed no tell-tale signs of a lonely, difficult life.
husband's life was in Jaffna, Vavuniya and Batticaloa," said
Sonia speaking of Lt. General Shantha Kottegoda's tour of duty in the
army. She spoke glowingly about the army despite having lived alone
all these years. "Our happiest times were the two years he was at
the NIB in Colombo. But thereafter he came home once a month,"
said Sonia recalling the life that any serviceman's wife has to lead.
these years, these hardships and longings have not touched Sonia
Kottegoda. "Life in the armed
services is not easy, people may think that service families
have all the perks and the privileges but few focus on the heartache
and the loneliness," said Sonia. "I have seen husbands of
close friends getting killed. Each time I went to a funeral, I have
asked myself the question, will it happen to me?" said Sonia.
General Kobbekaduwa was killed in a blast, the present commander of
the army had been with him. "General Kobbekaduwa was a man I
admired so much. He was my hero. My husband used to tell me that he
cannot be a Kobbekaduwa and that he is a Kottegoda. Anyway, I was so
distressed when I heard about the blast and I was panic stricken at
the thought that I had lost my husband too, for he was with him at
that time. It was the saddest day in my life. And then I heard his
voice," recalls Sonia.
General Shantha Kottegoda who assumed office as the 17th Commander of
the Sri Lanka Army in July is an officer who has climbed the ladder.
But Sonia seems unaffected and untouched by any of those rungs - and
today even as the first lady in the army, Sonia Kottegoda remains as
simple as she has always been. The good cook who has tantalised
tastebuds with her chutneys is the same woman who strives to make life
better for the fallen heroes.
been the President, Seva Vanitha Unit of the CLI Regiment, Sonia
focused on the disabled soldiers. Today as the President, Sri Lanka
Army's Seva Vanitha Unit, she is thinking of making life better for
the fallen heroes. "There are 2000 deserving children of soldiers
who have got killed during the war who ought to be given scholarships.
The scholarship is Rs. 500 a month from grade one upto the ordinary
level," said Sonia who is trying hard to complete this task.
"Even when I am travelling, these thoughts are foremost in my
mind," said Sonia.
main intention is to help the disabled. There is no life for these
fallen heroes after they are confined to a wheelchair. I hope to
improve the Ranaviru Sevana," revealed Sonia who said that she is
looking out for people who wish to donate property in different areas.
"What I think is that when these disabled soldiers are put into
Ranaviru villages they are not quite happy, for these villages are
away from their homes, in isolated places. What I am trying to do is
get land for these fallen heroes in their own hometowns and help them
to build houses," she pointed out.
wives are compassionate. They are able to feel for other people. They
are all like one big family," she said. Sonia's tries hard to
help everyone who comes to her. It is easy to fathom that this
commander's wife can never say 'no' to those who seek her help.
husband advises on all matters and though I prefer to do things on my
own, I have found that his advice has always been correct," said
believe in compassion and my husband is a very compassionate and
reserved man. I remember how he broke down when our daughter left for
India," recalled Sonia. Speaking of life with the Army Commander
she said that he is an honest, straightforward and silent man who has
contributed a lot in his own way. "I am very proud of him,"
General Shantha Kottegoda, according to his wife, is a simple man who
prefers to eat at home and do gardening. She spoke of the distress
that he experienced at having had to leave the pond he made at their
former army quarters before moving in here to General's House in
Bauddhaloka Mawatha. It is very unlikely that the Army Commander can
do any gardening here. The flowers and the trees have got all the care
they need. Inside, the impeccable white tiles open out into darker
floors - there is spaciousness
and quietness. The huge sofas and the lone Sonia still suggest an
Kottegoda speaks of times she had to take her children to school, a
time when she had no vehicle. She speaks of her husband's dedication
to duty and the motto that duty does come first has always been
foremost in their lives.
Kottegoda is confident. Time seems not to have touched her and she
speaks with sadness about the stray dogs and puppies that she used to
feed at their former abode. Life offers different times to us. And to
Sonia it is a time to live alone with her husband, for her two
children are away on higher studies. "I always think of my
children. When I wake up each morning, I close my eyes and think that
nothing bad should happen to my husband and children," said Sonia
was a relaxed evening with the Commander's wife. For Sonia, there were
no airs and graces - no diplomacy and no empty words - for this
Commander's wife spoke out and those words came generously tinged with
feeling, straight from the heart.