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A Tribute to Mr N S Kandiah

The following is a tribute paid by Mr P Rajanayagam to Mr N S Kandiah who passed away on 26 August 2008 at the funeral on 31 August 2008:

(September 04, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) I stand before you today filled with a deep sense of sadness, humbled and somewhat intimidated by the presence of the mortal remains of Mr N S Kandiah who, during his life time, stood out tall and strong like a colossus earning his place in the hearts and minds of his compatriots by his selfless and absolute commitment and dedication in the service of the community into which he was he was born.

My relationship with Mr Kandiah defies definition. Yes I was his student when he was a teacher at Skanda Varodaya College. Yes both of us were part of and played leading roles in the Standing Committee of Tamil Speaking People (SCOT). Then he was President and I was secretary of the Skanda Varodaya College Old Students Association in the UK for well over 15 years. Then our destiny was bound together for over 25 years with what turned out to be the most arduous venture, the uninterrupted publication of the monthly journal, Tamil Times. However my life and times and my relationship with him during these years transformed itself into one which as I said before into an indefinable one.

When NSK’s children asked me to speak on this occasion, I asked them as to the capacity in which they wanted me to speak and I was profoundly touched and genuinely honoured by their response. “Rasa Mama, Appa treated you like one of us ordering you about just as he did with us.” Yes, in personal terms, I have lost a fatherly figure and it is in that capacity I stand before you to salute and pay my tribute and respects to one of the most distinguished sons of our community.

Mr Kandiah was born on the 22nd of September 1922 at Kokkuvil, Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka. On 1 December 1952, Mr he married Kamaladevi, daughter of Mr and Mrs Sithamparanathan of Anaikoddai, who stood like a rock supporting him every step of the way and tenderly caring for him until his last breadth.

The story of Mr Kandiah is a long and interesting one. Having had his early education Skandavarodaya College, he secured his B.Sc. degree from the University of London and the Universisty of Ceylon in December 1947. Thereafter, he joined Skanda as a teacher in Mathematic sand Physics under the then distinguished Principal; Orator C Subramaniam who had a special place for Mr Kandiah in his heart.

In February 1950 he obtained his appointment as Superintendent with the then National Savings Movement.

Thereafter in October 1955 he became Deputy Commissioner in Sri Lanka’s Department of Immigration and Emigration. In October 1957 he joined the Ceylon Transport Board (CTB) following the nationalisation of the bus services in the country by the then Government under Prime Minister Mr SWRD Bandaranayake where he worked first as Schedules Manager later being promoted as Deputy Operations Manager for the whole island. During his tenure with the CTB, Mr Kandiah travelled to London on a Colombo Plan Scholarship to follow an intensive course of training with the London Transport Board from October 1965 to February 1966.

It was during this period that Mr Kandiah played a leading role in the functioning of the Skanda Old Students Association in Colombo.

In 1970 he along with many others lost his job with the CTB when all their services were terminated following an industrial dispute and it was this development that changed the next phase of the life and times of Mr Kandiah and his family.

In August 1971, Mr Kandiah came to London on a Work Permit issued by the British High Commission in Colombo to work with the London Transport Board. In the following years, members of his family joined him in London where they established their future. The difficulties and the struggle he had to encounter in securing his wife and children to join him in the UK is a story that is worth to be retold but should await for another occasion.

In course of time, number 6 Merton Road, Putney in London became their home which doubled up virtually as a sanctuary for relatives, friends and others where the generosity and hospitality of Mr Kandiah and his family were put to the test in no small measure.

In the meantime Mr Kandiah returned to teaching in 1972 which was his forte joining the Hydeburn Secondary School in Balham, London where he taught Mathematics until his retirement in December 1988.

Mr Kandiah with his wife had three sons, Sujethiran, Kuhendran, and Rpendran, and four daughters, Ajantha, Shantha, Vanitha, Vijitha and 11 grandchildren, * Arunan * Vidhushan, * Lakshmi * Darshan * Jananee * Aarani * Saranya * Krishan* Roshan * Atticus* and Logan; and the 12th is on his/her way.

By any reckoning, the children and grand children are doing extremely well in their professional and educational fields. They have been the pride and joy of Mr Kandiah and his dear wife. When I visited his home and spent some hours with him just three days before his much lamented departure, there was nothing to stop him from giving me a long account of the educational achievements of his grandchildren.

Others have spoken about the enormous contribution made to the wider community by Mr Kandiah thereby justifiably earning the reputation of being an outstanding community leader.

All of us are born as individuals and most of us lead our lives primarily as individuals. Throughout our lives, most of us are engaged in pursuits of personal advancement and the promotion of the interests of our close kith and kin. But a few refuse to be circumscribed by this narrow and restrictive pursuit as their purpose in life. Such people by their actions, contributions to and sacrifices for the society in which they live, transcend and transform as institutions. And in course of time, these individuals-turned-institutions become the pillars upon which the whole society depends. And no one can doubt that Mr Kandiah was one such person who became such a pillar during his life time.

I will be failing in my obligation in paying tribute to Mr Kandiah if I do not specifically refer to the incomparable contribution he has made to bringing out the Tamil Times for twenty five long years.

The early 1980s was the time when the ethnic conflict was fast escalating into an armed conflict. The burning of the Jaffna Public Library in May 1981 and the communal violence unleashed in August 1981 and the sense of outrage felt by most of us was the catalyst for the launching of Tamil Times.

Let me take this opportunity to publicly acknowledge the fact that without the sustained effort and immense contribution made by Mr C J Thamotheram as the founding Chairman of Tamil Times, from its inception until the end of 1987, the journal would not have been born, would not have seen the light of day, and would not have survived even a few months. The others, involved at that time in this venture were many like-minded people the notable among them were including myself, Mr N S Kandiah, Dr V Navaratnam, Dr R Thayaparan, Dr Ragunathan.

If my memory serves me right, the first editorial board meeting at which I was appointed as editor was held at 6 Merton Road, Putney, the home of Mr and Mrs Kandiah. The first issue of Tamil Times was published in October 1981.

What was demanded for the continued publication of the journal was an all consuming effort on the part of those few who were involved. However, it was primarily due to the strength of the founding principles of Tamil Times and the untiring perseverance and sustained dedication of its founding Chairman Mr Thamotheram that ensured the publication of this journal in the ensuing years.

Following his retirement from teaching, it was in December 1987, that Mr Kandiah became Chairman of the Board of Tamil Times taking over almost all of the functions relating to the financial management, subscription, circulation etc.

We could not afford to rent an office and therefore while the editorial aspects were undertaken from my home, the rest of the work was carried out from Mr Kandiah’s home from where he month after month mobilised his children, and in later years the grandchildren too, to assist him in the various aspects of the work.

In later years even when he was in and out of hospital now and then, his determination to bring out the paper each and every month remained undiminished. He did not hesitate to apply persistent but polite pressure upon me to ensure that I completed my editorial part of the work in time for the journal to go into print.

[ For example, my wife died on 10 February 1999 and the funeral took place on 18 February 1999. I received a telephone call from Mr Kandiah two days later, first asking me about how I was managing and whether there was anyone to help me particularly in regard to my meals. Then he proceeded very politely to tell me that he had spoken to the press and they wanted the finalised version of the journal including its artwork within a week for the paper to be available for circulation before the end of that month. Grieving as I was for my departed wife, I complied and the paper came out for distribution in time. ]

Mr Kandiah maintained and managed the finances with absolute integrity and probity. Every penny was accounted for and each and every year the audited accounts would be ready within two months of the ending of the financial year to be despatched to the Company’s House. The secret of how we were able to bring out the journal month after month for 25 years without any external funding depended on two factors – firstly almost all the work undertaken were voluntary on our part, and secondly the meticulous and prudent manner in which Mr Kandiah handled the finances of the organisation.

In the milieu of polarised politics of Sri Lanka, and in particular Tamil politics characterised by egregious internecine Tamil-on Tamil violence and intolerance of differing opinions, running a journal like Tamil Times genuinely committed to the fundamental journalistic principle that “facts are sacred and opinions are free” turned out to be a risky and controversial exercise. There were its well-wishers and its detractors. Bouquets and brickbats were received in equal measure.

It is my belief that the issues of Tamil Times will bear witness to the true history of the trials and tribulations of a community of people in the teardrop shaped little island in the Indian ocean for 25 long years, and reflect the fact that in that endeavour the contribution of Mr Kandiah was incomparably and truly substantial, Of all his achievements in the public sphere, that contribution represents the greatest legacy he leaves behind. And no wonder he became widely known as “Tamil Times Kandiah”.

It will be grossly remiss of me if I fail to mention the fact that Mr Kandiah could not have achieved what he had during his lifetime and enabled him to serve his community as much as he did without the dedicated support he received from his wife Kamaladevi. Truly speaking she valiantly played the role of the martyr in her husband’s cause. On a personal note, I am extremely grateful for her kindness, concern and hospitality over the years.

Mr Kandiah, a loving a husband, a father, a grandfather, a brother, an uncle, a friend, a teacher, a mentor and above all a wonderful human being has departed following a lifetime of service to his community.

On behalf of all of us, may I express our heartfelt condolences to Mr Kandiah’s wife, their children, grandchildren and all other members of his family. May they have consolation in the knowledge that many thousands of his compatriots will remember and cherish the memory and service of Mr Kandiah in the years to come.

Today we bow our heads and salute Mr Kandiah in celebration of his life and service.

May he rest in peace.

- Sri Lanka Guardian

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