By Tamali Silva
At a quick glance Susantha Gunawardana looks average and ordinary, but alas! He’s anything but. The interesting interview I conducted with him gave me a whole new definition for ‘humble pie’, which he so convincingly stood for, and a profound re-assurance that there is still hope for aspiring individuals out there, for whom success in life is not offered on a silver platter.
Susantha Gunawardana is an inspiring individual with an extraordinary amount of optimism and the spear heading force behind the hospitality school based at Neptune Hotel, Beruwela. The school recently felicitated its inaugural batch of students comprising of 28 young hopefuls, all of whom are currently employed at Aitken Spence Hotels.
It was a project initiated to inspire a second generation of hoteliers, the majority of students being children of existing employees of Neptune hotel. Most employees have stood loyal to the hotel through its glory days and weathered its struggle to survive through the tsunami devastation.
So, in a sense, giving their children the opportunity to learn the hard and soft skills required to excel in the hospitality trade was a tribute to their years of loyal service rendered to the hotel.
Susantha clearly takes pride in his protégés so to speak, being the head lecturer for the school. He spoke of the time he first addressed his class of young apprentices, clad in cloths which they felt best fit the occasion, and some with unruly hair and unshaven beards. Clearly they had a long way to go before they became masters of social etiquette and successful service providers within the industry with impeccable style and discipline.
Susantha’s modest pride stems from a sense of achievement that after a year or comprehensive training, the unruly haircuts and mismatching cloths are a thing of the past. However, the transformation wasn’t merely superficial; the graduating batch is now equipped with the skills and winning attitude they need to inspire confidence in all their endeavors in the hospitality industry. They have cultivated such confidence within themselves to the extent that they have come to believe that, if teamed with hard work and determination, they can achieve wonders.
This was clearly evident at the talent show the graduating batch put together for their graduations ceremony. Susantha is clearly equivalent to a proud parent talking ever so passionately about this kid’s impressive achievements. He went on to describe how the students have practiced relentlessly for the concert and how they’ve put together their own costumes. He was clearly awed by the meticulous attention to details the students have paid in organizing a flawless event.
He wasn’t the only one in awe, as I too felt the event was so well done, after getting the opportunity to see some of the pictures of the ceremony. Starting from the aesthetic creativity entangled with the frangipani twisted together with ‘gok kola’ for garlands, to the concert acts worthy of real professionals, to bath topping students delivering the graduation speech with such pride clad in saree, gave me inspiration beyond words. In essence it’s a real life success story worthy of a standing ovation.
I salute you Susantha Gunawardana for inspiring undying confidence in these young hopefuls and showing them greater heights and a brighter future. My heart felt congratulations to the graduates, taking my leave with the words: “Never stop believing in yourselves and dreaming bigger each day!”
2007 – Ace Magazine Issue 4