I first met V. Kailayapillai soon after I assumed duties as GA Mannar in mid-1965. We quickly established a bond that strengthened and lasted till his passing away on June 29, this year. The relationship soon extended to his family and to my extended family and multi-ethnic circle of friends, many of whom have had memorable holidays with the Kailayapillai family. In their middle-class home in rural Illupaikadavai to the north of Mannar, all of us, young and old, enjoyed good company, good food, river and well baths, and visiting the beach or exploring the forest seated in the trailer of his tractor.
In any company, Kailayapillai stood out as an intelligent and articulate person of great integrity, robust good health and outstanding leadership qualities. When I first met him he had already quit his job as a Station Master and migrated from an urban centre to rural Wanni to take to farming, which was his true vocation. He and his family fitted very well in to their new occupation and location and provided leadership and stability to the local community. He was Chairman of the Village Council.
Some of us city dwellers entertained dreams of eventually, on retirement, moving in as his neighbours. Sadly, that was not to be. The civil war intervened and his neighbourhood was repeatedly caught up in it. His sons emigrated to Europe, but his daughter stayed back with her parents and married in due course.
Visits to Illupaikadavai became difficult but we met the family when they came over to Colombo for the wedding of the grand-daughter. Kailayapillai and I exchanged letters from time to time, but that ceased when he was displaced. He and his family repeatedly relocated and were then interned in Menik Farm. All this took a heavy toll on their health. They were released a few weeks ago but Kailayapillai, close to 84 years, did not survive long.
Kailayapillai opted to live as a Wanni farmer but could comfortably fit in to and shine in any circle anywhere. To his family and the local community he had been a pillar and a role model. If he lived, he would have provided sound and constructive leadership to the larger Tamil community in this critical period.
My family has lost a friend we held in great affection and respect. He will be deeply and widely missed.
Dr. Devanesan Nesiah