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Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
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Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Home > Tamil National ForumSelected Writings by Sachi Sri Kantha >Valor of Dr.K.Visvaranjan

Selected Writings by Sachi Sri Kantha

Valor of Dr.K.Visvaranjan

21 February 2001

[See also Diwali Day Massacre at Jaffna General Hospital - November 1987]

It appears to me that the scribes writing to the spineless mass media of Sri Lanka practise casteism to distinguish the Tamil victims of untimely deaths. In this categorization, some like Dr.Neelan Tiruchelvam and Dr.Rajani Thiranagama belong to the Brahmin caste. Politicians like Amirthalingam and Duraiappah fall into the next-ranked Kshatriya caste. All the rest are just lumped into the harijan caste - the untouchables, and thus unmentionables.

Whenever I see Dr.Rajani Thiranagam's name being used in the cyberspace as a poster-model for "Tamil terrorism", I silently weep for Visvaranjan, my friend of teenage days. He was an year senior to Rajani Rajasingham (as she was known in the mid-1970s) at the Medical Faculty, University of Colombo. He was also a murder victim in Jaffna. He predeceased Rajani by two years and a half.

When I plugged the name 'Rajani Thiranagama' today in a search engine, it produced a list of 46 entries. But the name K.Visvaranjan didn't elicit even a single entry. As a control, I plugged my own name and found nearly twice the number of entries to that of Rajani Thiranagama. Nothing to brag about, since she has died in 1989, while I'm still alive. But, if I'm not mistaken, even the Broken Palmyra book, authored by Rajani Thiranagama and her colleagues didn't make an issue of Dr.Visvaranjan's murder by the Sri Lankan army. Thus, I felt that he deserves a belated recognition in cyberspace via the tamilnation.org website.

Between 1969 and 1971, Visvaranjan and I met regularly in the evenings and weekends at the tuition classes in Wellawatte and Bambalapitiya. He studied at the Royal College and I was a student of Hindu College, Ratmalana. We exchanged quite a number of messages, "hints" which were needed then for us to pass the university entrance exam hurdles of 1970. We also shared much trivial ephemera and topics of teenage mind-set. Both of us were lucky to enter the University of Colombo together in 1972. His route was directed towards the medical faculty in Colombo 8. I had to chose the science faculty located in Colombo 3. Then, our contacts became infrequent due to exigencies of space and time, though not abolished.

We followed the threads of our destiny. I never had a chance to talk leisurely with Visvaranjan again. The last I saw him in person was in November 1986, when I made a casual visit to the Jaffna General Hospital where he was working then. I was on vacation from Tokyo. While on his ward rounds, he recognized me with a nod, but since he was busy with his work, I did not wish to disturb him for pep-talk.

In the spring of 1987, I received a letter from my sister, who was then living at Nallur, mentioning that my friend Visvaranjan had became a Sri Lankan army victim. Only thing I could do was to highlight his murder in a humble manner in the international press. Making use of an opportunity to comment on an editorial, which appeared in the Asiaweek (Hongkong) magazine, I wrote my brief, heart-felt eulogy to him, which fortunately was published. Here is, in full, what I wrote:

"In 'War without End' (editorial, June 14), you try to portray President Jayewardene as a man of principled reason and the Tamil rebels as thugs. Gentlemen, have you visited the Jaffna peninsula?

My family lives there. A few weeks ago, I received a letter from my sister. She wrote that one of my high-school friends, Dr.Kathamuthu Visvaranjan of Jaffna General Hospital, had been killed near Palaly Army Base. He'd been asked to identify himself and while he was doing just that he was shot by a Sinhalese soldier standing right behind him.

My friend was in his mid-thirties and had a child. Do you expect that the child will grow up a friend of the Sinhalese army? For ten years there have been thousands of Tamil kids in Sri Lanka's Northern and Eastern regions growing up without fatherly love. The government's actions are breeding a new generation of rebels." (Asiaweek, July 5, 1987)

The most-demanding letter page in an international newsmagazine (before the cyber-revolution) didn't offer an opportunity for expansive writing. Every written word counted and the main focus was to make sure that the letter written was worthy of competition in editor's whimsical selection process and that it escapes the mangling by editorial scissors. I was glad that Dr.Visvaranjan's murder at least received some recognition then. When I inquired from a knowledgeable source (also a medical doctor, serving at the Jaffna General Hospital at that time) subsequently about the circumstances surrounding Dr.Visvaranjan's death, he told me that the Sinhalese army man had fired at close range while my friend was in the process of identifying himself by showing the stethoscope he had in his pants. I could only infer that at that moment, decency and dignity had fallen victims to dumbness and arrogance.

Visvaranjan was not an agitator in the fashion of Ms.Thiranagama. He was not an attention seeker. Rather, I would say he was taciturn. But he was definitely not listless. The fact that he was serving at the Jaffna General Hospital in 1987 (while I had left the island in 1981 for postgraduate studies abroad) also told me about his work ethic and service motive to the Tamil populace who depended on his professional expertise.

Dr.Visvaranjan's death should not be forgotten. I salute his valor for sacrificing his life for Eelam Tamils. I look forward to an opportunity to meeting his progeny. For that matter, any Eelam Tamil kid who carries the surname Visvaranjan will elicit a deep curiosity in me. I will try to find out whether she is the son or daughter of my teenage friend.


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