Eulogy for Sivaram

by Dr. Oppilamanipillai

My dear Kunchi, this is my little Eulogy to you.  I am sure you would not seek any fame or praise in a congregation.

I remember the day when you delayed your departure to Sri Lanka and stayed at Barnet in my house as there was a threat to you as a spy.  You asked me to write an Eulogy on you when you departed.  I laughed it off as on many other times when we had talked about death.  On one occasion you said that the best death is to be shot and you called it a beautiful death, despite my remonstrations.

There was a day in 1995, you woke me up from my slumber.  I was seeing you after 13 years, since 1982.  You had been on a very lush adventure of life and I had buried myself into the field of medicine and was living the middle class life in England, taking up English culture as a way of life and abandoning my roots.  I even forgot how to speak in Tamil or Sinhalese and I was ashamed.  I could not speak to my mother in Tamil.  You shook me out of it and made me sit up and pick up where I had stopped – I am back now with your help.

On many occasions we spoke about our childhood days.  I remember you as a baby and as my first photographic affection at the age of eleven.  Thence you followed me around as an ordinary level student listening to me talk of ‘Albert Camus’ and Russian writers.  You reminded me not long ago that I had inspired you as a child and that I gave you a copy of Camus’ ‘Fall.’.

I bought you your first beer at the place known presently as ‘Wadia’ at Wellawatha one night with my first salary on a day off from the hospital.  You then started talking to me about the Mycenaean civilisation at the age of fourteen years – an age when most people’s knowledge of the Greeks would have been Athens and Socrates and possibly Plato and Aristotle.  Suddenly it dawned on me that here was brilliance; the one to nurture in our family.  I was planning when I had money to take you to the U.K. and get you into Cambridge where your father studied.

But the fate prevailed otherwise.  When I told you about it, you were glad that it had not happened as you would have missed the exciting life in Sri Lanka.  You always told me the beauty of life in Sri Lanka was its unpredictability, as opposed to the anonymity and the predictability of life in the West.  In 1995, when I returned to Sri Lanka after a long period of time, you opened my eyes to many subjects and rekindled my old interests, apart from my medical profession.  You made me become aware of the glory of the ancient Greek civilisation.  You introduced me to the great thinkers like Freud, Karl Marx and Bertrand Russell and modern poets such as Eliot.

I was wondering whether anything had happened in the East, for it was - as I thought - an empty space in the history of mankind.  That was the time you talked to me at length about the pre-Buddhist culture, the scholarship of Das Guptha and the history of Indian philosophy.  You also made me read and appreciate the ancient Tamil sangam poetry like the Purnanuru and great epics like Cilapathikaram.

You planned faithfully for us to travel the world together, but given my family and work commitment, I spent only less than two weeks in the USA and a weekend in Paris with you.  Plans for Cuba this year lie unfulfilled.  While in the USA, I realised that you were a minor celebrity and I was merely your shadow.  The number of people offering their hospitality and admiration showed me what you had become, how far you had travelled from that small boy who has once followed me around.  It was the greatest treat to travel with you; chatting and visiting bars in the capitals of the world.  We travelled through London, Paris and New York holding discussions on life, politics and philosophy.

I was fortunate enough to watch you delivering a lecture in New Jersey on the strategic interests of South and East Asia.  You spoke lucidly in Tamil with no notes or any kind of preparation.  The lecture was of such perceptive depth that one only needed to fill in dates and figures to gain a complete understanding.

While in Washington, you were also the impromptu guest of the Institute of Strategic Studies of the United States for a meeting.  Incidentally, your dress code remained the same whether it be for an important meeting or a visit to the pub.

Your favourite poet of all time was Omar Khayyam,

May I conclude this Eulogy with the following poem by Khayyam:

‘Dreaming when Dawn’s left hand was in the Sky,

I heard a voice within the Tavern cry,

Awake my little ones and fill the cup,

Before Life’s liquor in its cup be dry.’

Dear Kunchi, you lived your life on earth to the full as no other, with a cup brimming in one hand.  Your story is a fairytale.

This eulogy was delivered at at three memorial services for D. Sivaram over the past week.

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Posted June 11, 2005