Father’s Day

by Dilhan

Among the thousands of tributes that will be shared in appreciation of great father’s, mine – less than a year since I lost my father – centres on the greatest strength anyone could instill in another person – values.

My father was born into an ordinary, lower middle class family, not privileged or entitled in any way, and as he built the foundation of the business that forms his legacy of tea and kindness, he lived the values he desperately wanted to pass on to my brother and I. His strength was as much in his education as the lack of it – he had a brilliant command of the English language and an aptitude for Arithmetic, buttressed by a abundance of commense sense and pragmatism. In lacking tertiary education, his most significant influence came from his mother, my grandmother – Lucy. She lacked formal education but excelled in faith in God, and arising from that faith, an abundance of kindness and empathy. My father inherited all three of those attributes.

Merrill J. Fernando’s invincible faith in God, his devotion to tea and his uncompromising commitment to integrity and kindness made him and his invitation to try his beloved tea – do try it! – known across the world. He lived those values, and demonstrated the wisdom and strength that comes from always doing the right thing, no matter what circumstances dictated. His constant advice was to never pursue money, but pursue your passion honourably and the reward will follow.

He went against the grain, fighting for 35 years in support of his vision for tea with Quality and Purpose. While the world tolerated the stranglehold a colonial economic system maintained on less developed countries, he did not, and formed his tea business on a philosophy of serving humanity. He embarked on his mission at the age of 20, and he was 55 when his determination paid off with the launch of Dilmah Tea in September 1985. That continued to be his mission – aligning his love for taste and goodness in tea with his desire for ethical purpose – until he passed away at 93, last year, 2023.

New Zealand artist Stephen Fuller first portrayed my father for the Art deco trust in Napier in 2015. Earlier this year we commissioned Stephen to depict my father’s kindness. The result was unveiled in Wellington in the presence of friends and family including Daron Curtiss, adman who first encouraged my father to front his own advertisements, former NZ Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand and Lady Susan, Winsome Dormer, Nigel Scott, Alice Burton, and others. It elegantly portrays the lives my father touched through his devotion to tea and humanity. It is an extraordinary achievement, with success expressed in the lives of others, and it deserves to be honoured and never forgotten.

We feel my father’s presence every day as the values he instilled in us guide our footsteps. I wish you were here, Thathie, although you leave us with the next best thing, the faith your shared generously with us, and the connected values of kindness and humility, which together give us strength and direction in these uncertain time. Happy Father’s Day!

Related Posts

Leave a Comment