23 September, 2020

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Sanjaya – Rare Creativity And Untamed Personality

By Ranga Kalansooriya

Dr. Ranga Kalansooriya

Dr. Ranga Kalansooriya

That was somewhere in 2006, I wanted to check the ongoing studio development work at the College [Sri Lanka College of Journalism] as part of my morning routine work. Probably it would have been around 8.30 in the morning and hardly any staff member is in the office by this time. I knew the guys were working till late night to finish the studio on time for the new students to use it in a few weeks.

I tried to open the door of the studio but something was blocking it from inside. I pushed it hard. Oh God..! It was Sanjaya who was sleeping on the floor blocking studio door. Poor fellow has worked overnight probably with Prasad (Senaratne) and just catching up a last minute sleep. This was not once, it was Sanjaya’s practice almost every day to work day and night for at least a month to complete the radio and television studios for the college – for the future journalists in Sri Lanka. He would work without food, without sleep – but he would not miss his plain tea and the smoke – that took his life in the midst of his journey.

Sajnaya Senanayake was an extremely talented, committed and humble rare breed. One cannot work with him if you do not understand his style of behavior. His creativity is beyond any imaginary level and could match any international standards, but no administration system could control him to abide by office regulations. I had to face many challenges from my own admin system and sometimes from the Board of Directors on his untamed behavior, but his contributions to the institution was far more valuable and important compared to these challenges – so I would defend him at any cost. Typical journalist… I liked him a lot for all his rare qualities and more than all, his unblemished record of honesty.

Sanjaya Senanayake

Sanjaya Senanayake

I saw Sanjaya Nallaperuma has reminded in his facebook page how Sanjaya Senanayake took them – when they were students at the college – to cover the suicide attack on the Defence Secretary at the Pittala Junction. I still can remember how Sanjaya rushed into my office and yelled ‘I am taking the kids to the blast scene’ and he did not seek my permission, he just informed me. I knew how important and useful for the kids to be there in person and do a good practical exercise – but given the volatile situation how I can take the risk of sending these young ‘non-journalists’ to the blast scene with cameras [there were a considerable number of Tamil students too]? I had no option – than nodding to Sanjaya – but he did not care of my nodding. He has already got into a three-wheeler with a group kids. I turned to Namal (Perera) and requested him to keep a tab on the situation. We had a fantastic team at Sri Lanka Press Institute and at the College I must admit, that included Sanjaya.

Sanjaya invited his own death. His chain-smoking habit super ceased all his other good qualities. Once my wife heard a familiar voice within the premises of our next door. She had a look from our balcony and saw Sanjaya’s face in the midst of a thick cloud of smoke. He has come there to purchase the car of my neighbor (and we did not know about it and I was out of the country). During a mere half-hour stay, Sanjaya had finished a full packet of cigarettes and my wife predicted then that he was going to get into trouble soon. Many times I have warned him too – though me too sometimes shared a puff with him – but he would smile it off.

I met Sanjaya at Central Hospital about two months ago when I took my father-in-law for some treatments. Sanjaya was on a wheel-chair and had come there for some physiotherapy. He explained to me about a spinal issue. But I asked him about his lungs where the cancer had been diagnosed. “Well, I do not care about it anymore. I will live with it,” said with his usual full-face smile. Then he went on to talk about politics and many other things. I was happy to see him in good spirit.

But that spirit lasted only for a few weeks. Sanjaya said good bye to us with full awareness of his departure.

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Latest comments

  • 1
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    I have never seen him or heard of him until I heard of his untimely death. I am writing this because I know his father and mother well. Hence I thought of writing a few lines to express my sympathy to his father, Kelly Senanayake who was a leader of the JVP until 1980.His mother Ms Sunila Abesekara who was with the JVP for sometime and later played a very prominent role in defence of human rights and women rights locally and internationally.Unfortunately she bid farewell to us before Sanjaya did
    I believe he could have done an enormous amount of work for the betterment of the people of Sri Lanaka had he lived longer.I know that this is a very painful period for Kelly Senanayake. Dear Kelly! Please accept my deepest condolences on the untimely death of your son.

    • 0
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      Thanks for letting us know of the connection. What human talent lost to us all.
      In your short life, you made such an impact.
      My condolences to Kelly.

  • 0
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    A talented and exuberant life taken away far too early.

    We will always remember you Sanjaya.

  • 0
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    rip

  • 0
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    I have often wondered why SL journalists have difficulty making sense in their writings. The proof is above. Here is a Phd writing what I think is a memoriam about a student/colleague. Unless I knew who the young man in question was, I would be scratching my hairless scalp wondering what on earth this is about.

    Come on, Dude. Who was he, what did he do, how did he die and when.
    The only part I can discern he was afflicted with Lung Cancer. Everything else is pure guess work on my part.

    • 0
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      Very true! When will they learn not to assume readers are psychic?

  • 0
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    Very true! When will they assume readers are not psychic?

  • 0
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    I must agree with the comments where the author’s lack of direction is pointed out. I dont know the late sanjaya senanayake so do not wish to comment about him at all. But I do object to writers like kalansuriya who very easiely praise people calling them brilliant etc . from this article we only read about a person who smoked a lot. Creative ? Talented ? we wait for the author to enlighten us with comparisons and illustrations.

  • 0
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    Let me say somethings about what I know of Sanjaya Senanayake.

    He is my sisters first born, our mother’s first grand son, his fathers’ eldest boy, my first nephew. He died at half his mothers’ age when she passed away in September 2013. He was always much loved and surrounded by a large group of friends who stood by him throughout his fight against cancer – I only heard he smoked heavily, but this fact of his life teaches us, still living, many things – other than that smoking can kill. You learn to live fully and achieve great things in a short time.
    Learn to live and love life openly and enjoy. Love your food and share your skills – explore learning at all times, waste none in regret and use every moment to give others more than they expect. That was the Sanjaya I knew.
    I remember him as a baby – very happy, eat well and demand very little.
    Always willing to be held and taken about by others not necessarily his parents alone – he grew up with playmates from all strata of society – learned well from his experience and shared his values.

    He leaves us in wonder of the limits we set in our own lives.

    Bravo Sanjaya, and thank you for every thoughtful moment.

    I hope many are inspired and that good journalistic values will continue in Sri Lanka.

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