Plus - Appreciation

Banker who helped poor farmers and fishermen set up as small entrepreneurs

C. K. Kunanayagam

October 5, 2010 marked the first death anniversary of Charles Karunendran Kunanayagam.My father – Charley to his friends and Indran to his family – was born in Jaffna on January 4, 1934. He came from a respected and educated family.

He had his early education at Union College, Tellipalai, and graduated from the University of London in 1957. The eldest boy in a family of five children, Indran was burdened with many responsibilities at an early age. His father died when he was still a child.

I remember him calling me in before my first-year exam at university. He told me how fortunate I was in all that I had. He talked about the difficult times he had as a student, when he was studying for his degree. He would do a job in the mornings, to help his mother support the family, and study at night.

The village had no electricity, so he used a kerosene lamp to study by. He had no table of his own, so he placed a piece of wood across the arms of his chair and balanced his books and lamp on the board. That is how he studied for his degree. That was how determined he was to succeed in life.

He joined the Bank of Ceylon in 1955, where he stayed for the next 35 years, rising to the position of Assistant General Manager. He excelled in every important position he held at the bank.

He was especially known for his efforts to raise the living standards of the poor man, helping them to become small entrepreneurs. Between 1979 and 1982, as Regional Manager, Bank of Ceylon, Northern Province, he helped farmers and fishermen with loans to start their own businesses.
We knew he was a highly respected banker, but we were amazed by the large crowd that came to his funeral – all strangers to us. They came from the banks he had served, as well as other banks, to pay their last respects to a gentleman they held in high esteem.

My father was a member of the Lions’ Club, and was president of a club in Colombo. He also took part in church activities. He played the accordion, and accompanied singers, including carol singers, whenever music was required. He enjoyed meeting people and socialising. He had a good sense of humour, and everyone – from family, friends, colleagues and Lions Club buddies to the office peon and the driver – knew him as a fun-loving person.

While he was a regular lecturer at banking institutes, he became increasingly quiet, a man of few words, especially in his last years. But his love and concern for his family remained as strong as ever.

He taught me to be helpful and optimistic in all situations. My father will be remembered by many.
The poet Thomas Campbell wrote: “To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die”. That is how my father will be remembered by his family and all who knew him.

Rushira Kulasingham

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