21 February 2013

Dr. Rajeewa Jayasinghe: quiet, unassuming and so very silent now

In the university, especially in the first and second years, ‘seniority’ matters.  Rajeewa Jayasinghe was a year junior.  He towered over the rest of his batch at Dumbara Campus, University of Peradeniya.  He towered over our batch too.  Size helps.  It also intimidates, often to the unintended intimidator’s detriment.  Rajeewa didn’t intimidate anyone though.  I never felt he was a junior, not even in the first days of his time in campus.  He moved easily among students from various parts of the country, from various social backgrounds and at various stages of their academic program.  That’s not a size thing; it’s something about a person’s humanity. 


He had enough weight to throw around, but he did not.  He was always good humoured, always ready to laugh, never judgmental and always, always humble.  Rajeewa studied history and went on the secure a doctorate in the subject and an academic position in the Arts Faculty, Peradeniya University.  I studied sociology.  I can’t remember us ever talk ‘studies’ apart from what was yielded by courteous inquiry of the ‘what are you doing these days?’ kind. 

Back in the mid-eighties, knowing the rules of any sport (read, ‘if you are a keen spectator’) gave you an edge if you wanted to make the campus team and probably guaranteed selection in ‘Faculty Teams’.  Rajeewa never ‘looked’ a sportsman.  And yet, he was an excellent cricketer, by campus standards.  I remember being on the same Arts Faculty team.  Rajeewa opened the batting and was run-out in the first over.  He sat in the pavilion, clearly disappointed.  He told me that the disappointment was that he felt he could have done better for the team. 

He was competitive but didn’t let competition get the better of him.  He was the best Table Tennis player in the Arts Faculty.  There was a tournament, sometime in 1987, to find the best player in the Faculty.  It was my misfortune to draw him in the very first round of this knockout tournament.  Everyone knew the outcome.  He was kind.  He said ‘let’s take it easy’.  He took it easy and that was still ‘hard’ enough to beat me by a comfortable margin. 
Post-graduation, our lives took us along different pathways and we seldom met.  The last time was in Peradeniya a few years ago.  The same smile. The same gentle ways.  Good humoured, as always. 

And now, the gentlest giant of the Peradeniya of my undergraduate days (He was nicknamed ‘Dumbara Yodaya’ and later ‘Peradeniya Yodaya’), quiet and unassuming, is no more.  Gone, as he came and as he stayed: without a fuss, letting storms beyond his strength pass over him, without complaint, without agitation.  Peradeniya can’t be quieter on account of the fact, but there’s a still a silence. Rajeewa Jayasinghe inhabits this silence.  One feels poorer, somehow. 
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5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have not met Rajeewa but have heard about him through a very close friend of Rajeewa.I am so sad to see such a nice person leaving his loved once so soon. May he rest in peace.

Chamath said...

Thank you so much for writing this. He was my cousin, more like a big brother to me. He had a selfless,very friendly and intelligent character. We lost a shining beacon of an example to the society. To whoever reads this please take his good qualities, integrate it into your lives and pass on them to your next generations, for he still is the type of human this world needs..

Shari. said...

I don't know him Rajeewa personally but I knew his Mother and Father.... I am so very sorry for their loss...

SQN LDR. DEEGAYU ABAYANAYAKE said...

DEAR MALINDA,

THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR WRITING ABOUT DR RAJEEWA JAYASINGHE.HE WAS MY IMMEDIATE SENIOR AT TRINITY COLLEGE KANDY FROM 1973 T0 1986.ALSO HE WAS A ACTIVE MEMBER OF THE OLD TRINITIANS SPORTS CLUB AT ASGIRIYA.HE WAS VERY KNOWLEDGEABLE ON SEVERAL TOPICS OF NATIONAL INTEREST & VERY FRIENDLY WITH LOT OF HUMOR. WE TRINITIAS WILL ALWAYS MISS HIM & MAY HE ATTAIN NIRVANA = SQN LDR.DEEGAYU ABAYANAYAKE

Anonymous said...

How true. I had the fortine to know him when I was an undergrad and Rajeewa a member of staff. He was a gentle giant with a great sense of humour.