ELEGANT was granted the privilege of meeting an iconic figure in the airline industry, the charming Chandana De Silva who has entertained scores with his reverberating voice and his princess Tarja De silva who has danced her way into the hearts of many with her mesmeric moves!
Well since we are emerging from the worldwide celebration of fatherhood, ELEGANT decided to dedicate this particular story to the bond between fathers and daughters. Tarja and her dad Chandana share a unique relationship which this writer has observed throughout the years. Despite his busy schedule (an understatement) his daughter takes precedence in Chandana’s life…
Tarja de Silva – Causing a Rhythmic Revolution
Tarja De Silva has caused a rhythmic revolution with her dancing; at times she seems to be defining gravity and displays a matchless agility and electrifying movement that has an aesthetic appeal to those who value the beauty of dance.
The only child of one of the most famous airline personas, Chandana De Silva and Indunil, Tarja thrived at entertaining her family with songs, dancing and more at an early age, as these talents simply coursed through her veins. As an alumni of St. Bridget’s Convent, Colombo 07, Tarja took center stage in most of her school productions. Thanks to a holistic upbringing and an abundance of love and guidance from both parents and grandparents, who instilled values for the arts, education, entertainment, and simply encouraged her to spread her wings and soar, the young girl has blossomed into a woman of substance.
Discovering her Passion for Dance
She entered this rhythmic realm at the age of eleven and her first teacher was none other than the famous dance maestro, Toni Fernandez and his spouse Michelle and at present, Kevin Nugara.” My friends and I shared a passion for dancing and performed at various events, which gained us immense popularity,” reminisced she, harking back to her carefree life with friends’ Rukshi and Natti who called themselves ‘Les Trois’
Her fascination for dance and participation at renowned competitions enabled her to expand her scope in this sphere and aspired her to aim for the world famous Blackpool competition; the world’s first and foremost festival of dance. She and her partner, Vim were ranked among the top 195, which is an honour for Sri Lanka as well. During her years of studying the intrinsic aspects of dance in UK, she was also handpicked to play a supporting role in the hit movie Cuban Fury. With dancing being her forte, Tarja was voted as the President of the Salsa Club in her university and was privy to a range of opportunities which were available to her through the dance furore in London. “London paved the way for me to develop my skills,” enthused she.
She is confidence personified, possessing an aura of fairy-like spiritedness and a ‘joie de vivre’ which is contagious.
Having an aptitude for the arts gained her a BA in fashion designing and textiles and a Masters in Art and Design from the University of Bristol.
“I returned to Sri Lanka after my MA and continued what I love doing the most; dancing with the intention of inculcating my knowledge to others,” added this gleeful young woman who conducts a salsa class and a fitness class at High Octane whilst pursuing her career in dancing; either competitively or professionally at elite functions and corporate events.
With her mega- watt smile, expressive, sparkling, doe-shaped eyes, she adds that unique Tarja- touch to the timeless movements of dance, making her performances all the more captivating and awe-inspiring!
Despite her busy schedule, she includes precious moments with her equally busy, yet supportive spouse, her family and friends. She is also an ultra-millennial with an active tab on Instagram and other social media sites and juggles between work as a Senior Designer for MAS, dancing, teaching and much, much, more, yet manages to stay afloat as one of the most sought after professionally qualified and creative dancers in the industry.
Chandana De Silva:
My father was a doctor and my mum worked at Mercantile Credit. I have a younger brother at SriLankan Airlines. I could not have asked for a happier, contented and carefree childhood as the one I had. We were living at Katunayake at the time and we had plenty of space and time to play and run about. My parents taught me the valuable lesson of being simple and real – so I had the pleasure of playing with kids in my village and associating with all and sundry. Nothing mattered – cast creed or status – anyone who was willing to join in on a game was most welcome.
We schooled at St. Peter’s college and it gave me the opportunity to make lifelong friends and develop my talents – although it was tough to travel in the bygone days from Katunayake all the way to Wellawatte and back. We were up as early as 3- 4 am and by the end of the day we were knackered! Prior to my GCE Ordinary Level Exams we moved to Colombo. It was my father who kept pushing us in academics while my mum balanced us all-round and was our emotional rock.
How did you get into this industry?
My first ambition was to become an “Executive” in any sector – as long as I had the title of being an Executive. After the GCE A /L, I finally became a Junior Executive at Mercantile Tours and because of my mum I was introduced to Neelia Perera. She was my mentor, guru, and guide who helped me along my career path. Thereafter, I worked tirelessly to achieve my goals! Subsequently, I worked for Kanoo Travels in Saudi Arabia and was privileged to obtain my secondary qualification, which was awarded by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
Having stuck to a plan, I returned to Sri Lanka once again and embarked on the difficult journey of finding a job in Sri Lanka which was in line with the learning and experience I had accumulated.
In the years 1983 – 1984 I was recruited by the national carrier, Air Lanka and started as a Ticketing Agent. The rest is history as the saying goes…
How did your love for the entertainment industry develop and what is the earliest memory of it?
Music was very close to my heart and I would perform for my family and friends. My father in particular would encourage me to sing and learn music and would sing along with me – I remember my mum’s favourite song was “Whispering hope,’ and I have never sung that song since she passed away.
During my school days I sang with Sunil Perera of Gypsies fame as he was a school mate of mine and when I was around 10 years old I became the Junior Singing Champion of St. Peters College and later on the Senior Singing Champion. Later I decided to form a band called “Topaz” with my friends – I love that part of my life even though I am working for an airline. Topaz played at several open air shows and weddings in almost all parts of the country.
I was inspired by the late, great singer, Clarence Wijewardane.
Describe your relationship with your daughter?
In the late 80’s because of the unrest at the time in the country my in–laws were living in Finland. My daughter came into my life in 1988 – in fact I did not see her until a few weeks after she was born – and when I did she was the little “brownish doll” amongst the others – and I knew she was mine and that she was going to get a hold of my heart for a lifetime. We have grown more as friends rather than father and daughter.
Do you see your character traits in her?
Tarja is me (the best parts of me) – she is magnanimous, kind and giving. Talented in dancing – she has got rhythm in her. Although she is a fashion designer her passion is dancing and helping people; particularly women in need. As a father I could not be more proud of who she has become as an adult, her spirit, mannerisms and heart.
As an iconic figure in the airline industry, how do you see the change in it throughout the years?
About 25 years ago, the region’s aviation landscape had a limited global presence. Airlines were much smaller and mostly serving regional points. That has changed dramatically. The unique geo-centricity of this region and its emerging economies have helped airlines grow through business models that focus on connecting passengers from all corners of the globe through one main hub, resulting in airlines like Emirates having a dominant role in the industry.
The industry in 2018 will be defined by how fast it adopts innovation and technology within its overall business model and operations to ensure that it’s joined up with the customer and is optimizing efficiencies at the same time. Airlines that lag behind will leave the door open for more agile competitors to take their market share.
How do you perceive a father’s role in a child’s life?
I have never forgotten that I have been the love of her life. One must not compromise anything to have that quality time with your children, irrespective of everything and anything else. Every day I wake up and see my priority in front of my eyes. I guess the best answer to the question comes from Tarja herself – in a recent FB post she wrote:
Thathi; my rock and my inspiration.
There could be no better example to the saying ‘daddy’s girl’ than me.
I used to hate going to Montessori and the thought of being taken away from my dad brought me to tears every morning.
So, thathi used to take me to Independence Square, sit me on the rock lions and tell me stories to keep me distracted. It worked like a charm and I was in a better mood to go to school.
Until this day and onward I will always look to my dad for love, comfort, protection and guidance, for there is no love parallel to that of a parent.
By Rochelle Palipane Gunaratne
Model: Tarja De Silva
Photography By: Meesha Gunawardane
MUA: Hashara Kodithuwakku
Post Production: Lakshan Pramodya
Location: Villa Attikka