Friday, November 13, 2009
Gifted writer and true son of Jaffna :Aloysius Jeyraj Kanagaratna ..!!!
Aloysius Jeyraj Kanagaratna:
Gifted writer and true son of Jaffna
He belonged to a rare tribe of human beings who unfortunately were the minority among us but his vision and dreams embraced all humanity and all other living beings in the environment. Recently a collection of his writings, The Conscience of Jaffna was published and brought out in Colombo. He was Aloysius Jeyraj Kanagaratna better known as AJ among a wide circle of friends and the literati of the North and South. He was a teacher, journalist and a translator.
He was born in Jaffna on August 1934 and had his primary education at St.
Patrick's College, Jaffna and secondary education at St. Joseph's College, Colombo and higher education at the then University of Ceylon Peradeniya obtaining an English Honours Degree.
He started teaching English in a number of schools after graduation and joined the Jaffna based Standard Review as a sub editor till it was brought to Colombo. He also served the Daily News editorial and the Times of Ceylon editorial. In 1974, when the University of Jaffna was started, he joined it as an English tutor and served in that capacity till his retirement age.
AJ was a selfless man who asked very little for himself and was generous to a fault. When his people were suffering in the throes of the war, he often gave what little he had to others and went without many things for himself. He was not inclined to climb the social ladder though he was gifted much above the average person and he would not sacrifice his principles for any reason whatsoever.
He was a Marxist to the very end and lived in Jaffna even at the height of the terrorist war refusing to leave his people even when he had to suffer hardships.
Regi Siriwardena writing about some of his experiences in Jaffna says: "During the darkest years of the war I suggested to AJ through a friend since he was not only experiencing the privations of the beleaguered Jaffna but was circumscribed in his activity, he should migrate to Colombo, where I was sure fruitful and satisfying work could be found for him. He responded by saying he was a stick-in-the-mud who didn't want to transplant himself. I realized then that, together with the cosmopolitan culture and broad international awareness, AJ was also intellectually deep rooted in the soil of Jaffna, in its life, experience and language and for him to leave in its time of greatest ordeal, may have seemed a kind of betrayal."
Surprisingly AJ who was steeped in the Western culture and was grounded in English, Latin and Western classics, starting his primary education in a convent in Jaffna could not read or write in his mother tongue Tamil and his beginning to learn Tamil came only when he was 22 years and that also when criticisms were being written about Sinhala being made the official language.
He decided to learn Tamil to read the news and views in the Tamil newspapers and used to quip that Sinhala being made official language made him learn his mother tongue. Of course his application to learning a natural gift he had from his childhood made him a competent Tamil writer.
AJ was an indefatigable critic of capitalism and studied and challenged Western economists calling their bluff most of the time. He was also a true environmentalist and firmly believed that the so-called modern methods of agriculture destroyed the environment.
He did not seek limelight and lived a quiet life but his devotion to teach what he knew - a wide variety of subjects from English literature, Marxism, arts and the culture of his own people - and to the very end of his life he remained wedded to Jaffna sharing the joys, troubles and anguish of his people.
Among his books were Matthu (1970) Marxvadikalum Theshiya Inappirechchineiyum (1977) Avasrakalam 79 (1980) Marxiamum Illakiyamum Silanokkulal (1981) Ellamum Samathiyamum Varlatru Mosadium (1981) and Senkavalar Thalaivar Jesunadar (2000) and a series of his Tamil articles are to be published shortly.