by Sachi Sri Kantha, October 18, 2013
‘Better late than never’ is one of my favorite English proverbs. Early this year, when I published my thoughts on T.L.B. Bastianpillai (1941-1978), the sadistic Tamil cop, in April, I remembered Dr. P.R. Seermaran again. He was my freshman student at the Medical Faculty, University of Peradeniya, in 1980. After he entered, his other pals let me know that Seermaran was one of the active Tamil militants at that time and he was caught and tortured by this ‘dirty Basti’. Not that I was discriminating against my other students, but Seermaran had a bubbling and enthusiastic nature; because of that, he immediately gained a place in my heart. I also remember that it was he who introduced A. Baheerathan (the youngest son of A. Amirthalingam, then the Leader of the Opposition) to me. Baheerathan had entered the dental faculty with the same batch, but he arrived late for the term. I also remember that Seermaran arranged a pleasant farewell dinner for me, when I left the island to pursue my Ph.D. studies in USA. That was in July 1981.
Then, for seven years I didn’t have any contact with Seermaran, though he was in my thoughts. Then, like a bolt from the blue, I received an aerogram from London in November 7, 1988. It was sent to my previous address in Tokyo (from which I had moved in April 1988). I checked its date, and it was written on September 29, 1988 and stamped at Stratford (UK) on the same date.
“29th Sept. 88
How are you getting on? I am keeping fine. Can you make me out? I hope you wouldn’t haven forgotten me.
I was doing my internship in Jaffna General Hospital and I was one of the victim when the IPKF invaded our hospital and killed 69 people including a consultant Dr. A.Sivapathasundram (MRCP) and two other doctors. I, fortunately narrowly escaped.
Then I was in the wanted list. I was under so much of pressure then I resigned my job and came to Switzerland on the 27th of Dec. 87 on the invitation of my two brothers who are in Geneva.
After being there for 3 months I came to England on the 27th of Feb. 88. I wrote an article to the Tamil Voice International, as an eyewitness. I read some of your articles which appeard on the Tamil Times – wonderful. I got your address from the Tamil Voice International office. How are you? How long are you going to be in Japan? Are you got married?
I am preparing for my exam PLAB + MRCP in next Jan + Feb. I hope you will be busy with our studies but please don’t forget to write me back. Please keep touch. I may go to Switzerland again in few weeks time. I met Prof. Varagunam at the WHO, Geneva. My Geneva address is c/o Vasanthan Pushparaj, 4 AU-DU LIGNON, 1212 Geneva, Switzerland.
P.R. Seermaran (sgd.)”
I provide the scan of the original aerogram from Seermaran nearby. It had taken five weeks for the aerogram to reach me! I could only infer that since it was addressed to my previous residence, it had taken time for the post office in Tokyo to re-locate my new residence. The sad part was that, I failed to reply immediately to Seermaran. There were many reasons. First and foremost was that, I had become a first time father in March 1988 and was too busy with my research and assisting my wife with baby care. Due to the nature of the cross-national and cross-cultural marriage I had with my wife, we didn’t have any supporting help from our family members then. My first post-doctoral period in Tokyo was coming to an end, and I was also extremely busy in completing my research project and turning the accumulated data into research papers. In 7 weeks, I was about to leave to Philadelphia for my second post-doctoral stint at the then Medical College of Pennsylvania.
October 21st-22nd being the 26th anniversary of the Jaffna Hospital Massacre by the Indian Peace Keeping Forces (IPKF), I remember Seermaran. In his 1988 letter to me, he had mentioned that he was one of the survivors of that massacre and that he was in the ‘wanted list’. I wonder where he is now. Seermaran, will you kindly accept my apologies for not replying to you in 1988? We have a lot to catch up for the past 32 years.
I have a message to those who are reading this piece. If any you happen to be batchmates or immediate seniors or immediate juniors of Seermaran at the University of Peradeniya, kindly pass this message to him that I’m looking forward to contact him. Seermaran, I assure you that next time, I’ll respond promptly to your letter or mail. It will not take 25 years!