By S. Sivathasan –
In a single line cryptic and exquisite, a great Tamil poet, grammarian and scholar Tholkaapiar said “The world is of the learned”. For over two thousand years several generations have attested to the truism of the statement. With critical thought and reflection for three decades after the passing away of Principal St. John’s College, Jaffna, we have realised what a void men of eminence have left by their demise. Among those few was Mr. Anandarajan.
It was amidst political changes in the aftermath of the 1977 pogrom that he lived through eight of his nine years as Principal. Politics had its inevitable impact on society, which could not avoid the process of fraying. Together with political unpredictability came social instability and both grew apace. The structure of values that knit Jaffna society together began to lose its hold. The student community had begun to drift without direction. To complete the process, the government forced the traditional political leadership of the Tamils out of the country with the Sixth Amendment. A situation of chaos was enveloping the country and the North was affected most.
In a situation as challenging as this, some possessed of leadership qualities anchored themselves in defence of all that was valued by society. In the early eighties Anandarajan came forward as a man with a mission. Never neglecting his primary call towards the college, he got on to the stage marked out by destiny where too his contribution seemed called. He did so in the most trying situation. He had the courage and the commitment to be a leader in society.
In the post 1983 environment, when the student community and youth faced arrest and endless difficulties, society looked up to him for help. He had the courage to approach the military to have them released. His intercessions made him a leader chalking out his own path. His emergence was a reproach to those who were far too lusterless in comparison. More irksome was his fearlessness even in the face of arms and their senseless use. It may well be said that he knew no fear and feared not death. Even when cautioned it was not in him to retract. To impetuous youth it was a challenge if not an affront.
It was not before midgets that he strode tall. He once met the highest in the land to correct a wrong at the AL examination and thereby secured justice for the students.
At this point of time when thirty years are past, political turmoil has run its course and social upheaval has lost its steam at least momentarily, society is picking up the threads again. Movement is steady though the pace may be slow. A much desired leadership which men with a mission can provide is now rightly recognized. Our thoughts go to a Principal who stood apart.
The article reproduced below was written in 1985.
C. E. Anandarajan – A Principal without Peer
In the personage of Mr. C. E. Anandarajan, St. John’s College had an illustrious Principal and Jaffna, an eminent citizen. He had great achievements to his credit and in the perception of all; the best was yet to be. The expectations highly pitched by the people, were however foiled by a strange quirk of fate. It was not given to the Tamil Community to benefit fully from his endowments and capabilities. Even so, much was accomplished by Mr. Anandarajan within a brief span and Jaffna is greatly beholden to him for his services. The lustre he lent to the college and to Jaffna will glow for many more years. In the vicissitudes of any institution, the periods of glory are associated with the personality of the man at the helm. When the, long and chequered history of St. John’s College is traced, one could note this quite easily. Mr. Anandarajan had the stature to provide a certain leadership to the College that was refreshingly unique. He was endowed with the qualities of head and heart which one would wish for in a leader. With his keen intellect and academic training, he had a quality of mind that is seldom seen even among the standout. The toughness of his mental and moral fibre gave him an inner poise. His boldness verged on the daring. His mind was without fear and his head was held high. In him we saw an integrated personality whose mission was service. These were the hallmarks of the character of Mr. Anandarajan.
St. John’s College has earned a particular niche in the annals of education, not merely in Jaffna, but in the whole country. She has a long record of achievement. It is not given to everyone to be at the helm of affairs of such an institution. To merit this high office, Mr. Anandarajan had had a distinguished record He had in turn brought distinction to that office and prestige to the College. In the long line of able Principals he has earned his rightful place.
In recent times, St John’s had the good fortune of a remarkable leadership in the personalities of Rev. J. T. Arulanantham and P. T. Mathai Their qualities were diverse in some respects, but they made a harmonious whole. Rev. Arulanantham had a clear perspective about the content of education. Mr. Mathai had the administrative capability for translating vision into reality. Their roles were complementary. The uniqueness of Mr. Anandarajan was that he personified the best of both his forbears.
The association of Mr. Anandarajan with St. John’s was spread over three generations. The relationship was emotionally a close one. He could not think of himself and the college as separate identities. The success of the College and her glory were a passion with him. A great Russian intellectual speculated as to how Lenin succeeded in formatting and consolidating the revolution in Russia. The conclusion reached was, Lenin alone thought about the revolution twenty four hours of the day. St. John’s, her achievements and the future of her students were an obsession with Mr. Anandarajan, They became a part of his emotional being. A position of pre-eminence that the college reached in a multitude of fields, is a tribute to his commitment to the students and their future. Even though the daily routine demanded his close attention, he had a vision for St. John’s that was multi-dimensional. He provided the fullest scope for the students to so develop themselves that they could hold their own against anybody. Such a norm was set out by earlier Principals. Mr. Anandarajan enriched this tradition quite substantially.
Even as a student. Mr. Anandarajan was inducted to an environment where the watchword was perfection. Both as Teacher and Principal he sought to embellish all that he inherited. The functions of the college were multiplied a great deal to provide ample opportunities for the students to flower into responsible citizens. All functions were meticulously arranged and they provided a window to the public to watch and to assess the efficiency of the college. As Principal, Mr. Anandarajan took a pride over the excellence reached and left his stamp on all spheres of activity.
Mr. Anandarajan’s interests were so varied, that he was not content with confining his work to the spectrum of a Principal’s duties. He was proud of his Tamil heritage and placed his services at the disposal of the people. Being sensitive to the traumatic situation in which the people of Jaffna were placed, he reached out to offer help and assistance. He took upon himself tasks and responsibilities, even when they spelt danger. He had the fortitude of mind to face any situation with his overwhelming confidence. When he addressed an assembly, he expressed his views candidly. The fearless stances he took, made him a source of inspiration to the students and a tower of strength to the teaching community.
In the looming darkness that Jaffna faced, Mr. Anandarajan’s involvement in the Tamil cause became more pronounced. It was Tagore’s prayer that he should have the strength not to bow down before insolent might. This was an inborn characteristic in Mr. Anandarajan. He used his inner strength to serve the Tamil people when their need was greatest His was an involvement born out of a pride of belonging to the Tamil Community.
If Mr. Anandarajan has brought forth a generation of students who will consider it an honour to emulate him, it may well be said that his mission as Principal has been richly rewarded.