By Mithila Narendran –
Duty, reliability, honour, dignity, respect: these are all qualities that my father Late Dr Rajasingham Narendran not only held in high esteem, but practised every day during his time on this earth.
He was a serious intellectual and a firm believer in discipline but he could never resist the opportunity to have a laugh and unwind with friends and loved ones. My fondest memories are of him sitting on his armchair in his sarong, bare-bodied with a can of beer and singing Carnatic ‘Thaa Tha Nithathani’, Sinhala and Tamil Baila songs ‘Suraangani’ and ‘Chinna Maamiye’ to his grand nieces and dogs.
He saw a lot during his lifetime: a country ravaged by war and ethnic hate fuelled and fanned by career politicians, an uncertain world with the Cold War, the Oil Crisis, and the Arab Spring, the cold-blooded murder of his mother and younger brother at the hands of those who were meant to keep the peace, all understandably influencing his views on the post-war world in which he raised a family.
A prolific author, writing was more than just a passion, it was in his blood. He churned out countless articles all focussing on Sri Lanka – his Home despite his harrowing experiences during the 1958, 1977 and 1983 riots – and his capacity for intellectual thought saw him being invited to join numerous reconciliation and rehabilitation endeavours by the Government of Sri Lanka.
Despite his traumatic experiences, he loved nothing more than exploring opportunities in which he could contribute to a nation that he loved and saw so much potential in. His vision for a prosperous and united Sri Lanka saw him draw up plans for an agricultural and dairy industry that would rival New Zealand and the Middle East where he worked for most of his adult life.
One of those ambitious plans was a collaborative Village Development Project in Batticaloa together with the Eelapatheeswarar Temple, London. In March 2016, he was appointed Project Consultant by the Temple Board to oversee the entire project.
Since then, he spent most of his waking hours strategizing, planning and implementing his ideas for elevating the socio-economic profile of two low-income villages by empowering the people to ensure sustainable development. Once completed, the villages will have a fully-functioning private school, 4-acre sports stadium, cabana-style hotel, IT hub, sewing centre, children’s park and an industrial estate comprising small-scale local industries such as pottery, ornaments, mats, brooms,aquarium fish-keeping etc.
A naturally empathic person, he began this project by fulfilling the desires of the villagers by building Ganesha and Pechi Amman temples. The next phase provided easy access to drinking water via bore wells to villagers who previously had to walk miles to pump water for daily use.
Sadly, my father did not live to see his plans come to fruition. In the wake of his passing, the people of the villages flocked together to build a memorial to honour a man they called the ‘Father of their Villages’.
Empathic, loving and determined, my father was all these things and more. His statue now keeps watch protecting his villages as their guardian for eternity.
*Pulayaveli and Thambanamveliveli villages in Chengaladi, Batticaloa unveiled the statue of Late Dr Rajasingham Narendran in the village of Pulayaveli on 20 (Sunday) May 2018 attended by religious dignitaries, politicians and officials. Late Dr Narendran’s daughter Mithila Narendran reflects her thoughts following the event