Vernon added to the ‘sense of community’ down Maha Nuge Gardens in Kollupitiya – with the Bandaranaikes,the Dias-Abeysinghes, the Illangakons, the Wickremesinghes, the Tennekoons – this was Sri Lankan life at its best – visiting each others houses, Vernon always had the ‘open door system.’ There were hugely interesting personalities. At the top of Maha Nuge Gardens lived that political giant, Felix Dias-Bandaranaike. The lane was heavily guarded as Felix Dias-Bandaranaike lived up the road.
The only time there was any commotion was during the annual Royal-Thomian cricket match in Colombo, one of the most popular schoolboy encounters in Sri Lanka – Thomians and Royalists with their flags waving in the Colombo breeze would race down Maha Nuge Gardens. There were Royalists AND Thomians who lived down the road – Vernon’s home was no exception, with flags of both schools flying high from the windows. The Royal-Thomian match generated a great deal of excitement not only in Maha Nuge Gardens but across Colombo.
Maha Nuge Gardens was a vibrant community. People who lived down this quiet lane were enveloped in a world of culture, media, politics,education, the arts, banking, business. In the 1970s if you walked down Maha Nuge Gardens you could hear the fiery musician, Elmer de Haan (a dominant character in the world of western music in Sri Lanka ) playing the scales, morning noon and night, in the flats at the back of Vernon’s home.
Charismatic personalities like Sammy Dias-Bandaranaike spent long hours with Vernon explaining Cheiro’s book of numbers – there was ‘Achchi Mummy’ also related to the Bandaranaike family – they used to laugh at Vernon’s jokes and his stories.
Christmas was an exciting time in Maha Nuge Gardens, neighbours visited each other’s houses. Choirs in buses came to Vernon’s home. Vernon being a very creative person painted a massive festive mural on the main wall of his lounge – much to the delight of his three little children.
There were so many who turned up to see Vernon, people from all over the world international broadcasters from the West Indies, India, Australia, Great Britain, Hawaii, USA. Michael Broadbent an Editor of BBC TV News came for a few days and ended up staying for a few weeks as the JVP launched their uprising in April 1971. Living in Maha Nuge Gardens was an education in itself.