To the many dimensions in life, Dr. Sivakumaran sought to confer the very best attributes. For him to succeed for the benefit of his patients, that is the community at large, he had to be selfless and spotless. To gain acceptance from parallel officialdom, his character and conduct were to remain unimpeachable. There is no need to multiply all that is expected and mandated by a critical society. On all that was demanded, Dr. Sivakumaran blazoned forth as an exemplar. His success in all that he sponsored bespoke his earnestness and character.
As the son of a well-known teacher and a reputed Principal of Jaffna Hindu College, his life commenced with many assets. He was well versed in Tamil literature which provided him a strong foundation of values and character. In a short while after I met him when he was only thirty four, I was able to discern his spiritual bent. This he attributed to his Mother’s influence upon the family. However high his competence was, simplicity and humility were pervasive.
We met for the first time in the early eighties in Jaffna and our friendship grew stauncher till May this year. What was the Occasion? Hospital’s need for funds particularly for equipment. I was presiding over what was then called Decentralized Budget, where decision making did not go beyond Jaffna. All I needed was the sponsor’s honesty and the hospital’s needs. The Kachcheri and Jaffna knew that Dr. Sivakumaran’s character was of the highest. I cite this home truth to assert how a society can prosper with public servants’ integrity.
Dr. Sivakumaran’s dedication and work ethic had become a legend in Jaffna. His home was only a little away from the Kachcheri and just a mile from the hospital. Yet he will leave home at 7 am or earlier and get back at 8 pm or later. Getting tethered to the hospital flowed from his commitment to his patients. His routine was, park the car, worship at the temple in the hospital premises and proceed to his ward.
It used to be said that many an Internee’s choice was Sivakumaran as the Mentor. So with patients who would wish him to be his or her diagnostician. I had the good fortune to be one such in 1987. This was after seven years of our friendship and 12 years of my ailment. The antecedents for 5 years were all in Colombo. Dr. Sivakumaran had no difficulty in his diagnosis as gall stones to the fill. He said that surgical intervention was inevitable and was assigning me to Dr. Xavier an excellent Surgeon. He added that he will do a “fine cosmetic job” and so it was. I was in hospital for over 10 days and unfailingly Sivakumaran would look me up every morning and past 8 every night. Roads had no lights and cars had no petrol. Mode of conveyance for specialists was bicycle.
Concerns of a great physician are seldom confined to one’s prescribed field alone. They permeate into the healthy atmosphere of the hospital. In troubled times as the country and particularly Jaffna experienced in the eighties, work and responsibility of the whole medical fraternity extended far and wide in the hospital. While this was real, Dr. Sivakumaran was very much engaged in impersonal and sincere peace efforts as well. They took the form of discussions and writing and meeting such personalities as Hon. S. Thondaman and Hon. Lalith Athulathmudali. He even met high ups in the Indian High Commission; two of whom are currently Union Ministers in Modi’s Cabinet, The endeavours bore no fruit though they were genuine and consumed much of his time.
For Dr. Sivakumaran to dedicate his all to his vocation, he was blessed with a steadfast wife in Jegathnayaki who made their home. He worked heart and soul. His head withstood the strains, but the heart failed. When I spoke to his wife after Doctor’s demise, I found her to be strong and poised to stand her loss. If the husband was a philosopher, the wife is no less philosophic.
For a personage of Dr. Sivakumaran’s stature, a couplet from Thirukkural would be most apt.
“A duty a Son owes by his Father is to prompt society to exclaim
What penance the Father should have performed to beget such a Son”.
May we be thankful to Dr. Sivakumaran for his exemplary life and devoted service.