Wednesday, August 5, 2015
In Memoriam - Dr. Sivakumar Vedavanam
Remembered by Dr Nihal D Amerasekera
I write this with great sadness over the unimaginable loss of a close friend. After his early education at Jaffna Hindu College Veda joined the Faculty of Medicine Colombo from St Peter’s College Bambalapitiya. We met during the ‘carnage’ called the rag in 1967. He wasn’t pleased with the indignities but complied. Throughout the arduous course he worked diligently and enjoyed the camaraderie and the friendships like the rest of us. All through those years of hard study and fun his effervescent character remained his hallmark. Veda was widely and genuinely loved for it. Although he was swept along by the humour and the buffoonery at Medical College there was the serious side to him where he drew the line. As we left the Faculty and went our separate ways in 1967 I thought I would not see him again. But the forces of destiny worked in our favour. We started work at the Central Blood Bank in Colombo in 1970, almost on the same day.
In the Blood Bank we became closer. I recall the many evenings we drifted towards the Health Department Sports Club to put the world to right and enjoy the amber nectar that flowed so freely. That was a time when the Medical Officer in the Blood Bank had to go to all parts of our island to collect blood. On many occasions when he went on these journeys he asked me to join in for company. We did have a jolly good time. During those trips he showed tremendous kindness to the PHI’s, attendants and labourers who were part of the team. They loved him for his classless friendship and lavish hospitality. Those were indeed memorable years. He will be fondly remembered for the work he did for the National Blood Transfusion Service of Sri Lanka 1970-75.
He was the proud owner of a VW Beetle, a car which was in great demand in those days. Veda was a bachelor then and was ever ready for a dinner and a drink on an evening. During my years of personal hardships he was there to comfort me and keep me focused on life and the future. I will always remain grateful to Veda for his friendship during those turbulent times. All I could do then was to help him to pass the Sinhala examination to get to his next grade in the Health Service. I can still hear him speak Sinhala with that strong northern accent which amused us no end.
I left Sri Lanka for the bright lights of London in 1974 but Veda remained for a further year in the Blood Bank. He soon became disillusioned with the lack of progress for doctors in that institution and made plans to emigrate. He came to the UK and qualified in Psychiatry and worked for many years as a Forensic Psychiatrist in Durham before moving to Bedford. Neither he nor I remained in haematology. Hence our career paths diverged and sadly I never met him again. When I phoned him ten years ago he gave me the impression he was now a recluse and was not keen to keep in touch with anyone. I agreed to respect his wish with a heavy heart.
Veda married a Solicitor and had two children, a girl and a boy, both of whom are doctors in England. He had his share of ill health and had stroke in 2001 and surgery for prostate cancer in 2007. From both these events he recovered fully. He passed away in June 2015 of a sudden heart attack.
Veda was one of the youngest in our batch and was 71 this year. His cheeky grin and casual manner are memories for us all. He accepted life with good grace and was great company and a wonderful friend.. I will always remember him as an honest and dignified person. He had a strong sense of right and wrong. Veda had a heart of gold and helped many who came into contact with him. He spoke of his friends for their past loyalties and said nothing about his enemies – typical of a man with a large heart, a fine brain, a broad and generous spirit.
We pass our condolences to Dr Sivakumar Vedavanam’s family
May he find Eternal Peace