Tea and sports, his two great loves
Ganendra Balasingham (George Bala)
Most of us in the tea trade would probably have missed the obituary notice that appeared on July 18 and 19 indicating the passing away of Ganendra Balasingham since we knew him as Bala and the anglicized version of Ganendra as George.

In fact, I came to know of Bala's death only when I read the sports page in one of the daily papers on July 18 making reference to the passing away of an outstanding Thomian fast bowler of yesteryear.

I knew Bala through my association with the tea trade but from the anecdotes that I have heard, he had a personality and a unique character of his own from his school days, which began in that great educational institution in the north, Hartley College, Jaffna, and culminated at S. Thomas' College, Mount Lavinia. Probably if he continued his cricket seriously he may have been good enough to even represent the country in our early days as a budding test playing nation as he represented the national schools’ team with distinction.

Coming back to the tea trade, I was already at Forbes and Walker Ltd., when Bala joined Carson Cumberbatch and Co. Ltd in 1966 under the mercurial and legendary Hema (Lofty) Wijeratne. Bala together with O.L. De Krester and (Tunku) T.F. Iyne from my recollection, were all Lofty's prodigies and there were many more to follow. Hema Wijeratne and "George Bala" would probably have hit it off well together since they had two important factors in common.Both were from S. Thomas' College, Mt. Lavinia and both debunked the theory that smokers could not be good tea tasters.

Bala was always someone who wanted to move on in life sometimes a little too impatiently and therefore his long career in the tea trade saw many changes. From what I know and what I have been able to gather from my friends in the tea trade, he left Carsons around 1971 to join the Tea Department of Shaw Wallace and Hedges as the assistant to Gamini Fernando and took over from him as Manager when "Gama" left in 1975.

Thereafter, in 1978 he handed over the baton to Anselm Perera of Mlesna fame to join a Kenyan based company called Chai Exports which was keen on spreading its wings globally. Bala moved to their London office to commence their trading operation in the UK and shortly thereafter went on to Singapore when an entity was set up to trade out of Singapore called "TeaCof". At this stage I lost touch with this amiable and always interesting never short for words and ideas personality. We picked up the threads briefly when he returned to Sri Lanka as Managing Director of Heath & Co. (Ceylon) Ltd., succeeding Bandula Jayasekera who started Mabroc with Rohan Perera and the rest of the team.

Unfortunately, Bala's association with Heath & Co. was shortlived and the tea trade in Colombo lost a colourful individual in 1990. Inspite of his chain smoking , tea was in his blood and he continued to be associated with this great industry although I cannot give a detailed commentary of his movements over the last 10 to 14 years. Bala's unmistakable voice would suddenly call me up on his on and off visits to Colombo and he would generally relate how he was involved in an ambitious project either with Georgian tea or with some international operation that he was spearheading. Never someone short of ideas he would thrive on a challenge and I believe the aggressive sportsman in him never really died.

To bring out the large heartedness of this unique personality, may I just relate one incident that I picked up from Dhyan Peiris when I was trying to get my facts on his movements in the tea trade. After Bala had left Carsons to join Shaw Wallace, Dhyan who joined Carsons at around this time was suddenly thrown into the deep end by Lofty Wijeratne to go into the auction and buy for Carsons in the off-grade catalogue with a fairly important order for the week. This was a particularly bad week for Carsons following the sudden demise of Rogger Modder, a senior Director of Carsons and Hema Wijeratne was unable to make it to the auctions. The next senior buyer Nihal Dharmaratne had to buy the ex-estate catalogue.

All the others in the Carsons team were out of Colombo and new boy Dhyan was entrusted by Lofty to do the honours. Bala who knew Dhyan as a neighbourhood friend from Flower Road on seeing him at the auction and hearing of Dhyan's predicament, had sat by his side throughout the sale and assisted Dhyan in completing this order at what Dhyan termed a useful average price in keeping with their limits. The order was completed so successfully that Lofty thereafter moved Dhyan from the estate management section to the tea trading section and he is today one of our leading tea traders heading his own organization, Ceylon Tea Plantation Exports Ltd.

Reminiscing not only brings out the magnanimous nature of Bala as a friend but also the typical way the tea trade functioned in those days. How I wish some of these traditions still had the same values as they had in the past. Bala is no more but his memory and recollection of the enjoyable times we had together will continue in the years to come. Unfortunately with his globe trotting we did not have the pleasure of continuing to associate with his dear wife Saras and two sons Kishan and Dharshan who are in the USA. Saras from all reports practises as a successful doctor taking after her parents who were both doctors.

I am sure if Kishan and Dharshan were based in Sri Lanka they would have ended up as outstanding cricketers following in Bala's footsteps. Sorry, my dear friend, I was not able to pay my respects to you before the final rites were performed on your mortal remains. I hope this appreciation will in part compensate for this lapse. May the turf rest gently on your mortal remains and your soul find eternal rest.


Built bridges between Lanka and Japan
Rev. Ryugen Tanaka
Rev. Ryugen Tanaka Bhikkuni, head of the chain of Ryugen temples in Japan, passed away recently An admirer of President J. R. Jayewardene, Rev. Tanaka, had a prominent place among the people of Japan who constantly showed their gratitude to J.R. and Sri Lanka for his bold declaration at the conclusion of the Peace Treaty Conference in San Francisco in 1951.

As a mark of gratitude Rev. Tanaka appointed President Jayewardene as president of one of her temples – Temple of Peace. Rev. Tanaka was a great benefactor of the J.R. Jayewardene Centre, creating scholarship funds whereby the centre could sponsor a few children each year for higher studies. She also constructed for the centre a Japanese garden, a replica of the courtyards of the Japanese elite.

Rev. Tanaka regularly visited Sri Lanka to personally greet the former President on his birthday - September 17, till he died in 1996. At the funeral of the President, those who were present and also television viewers witnessed the emotional oration delivered by Ryugen Tanaka and how she broke down at the end of it.

Rev. Tanaka was seriously ill in her last days - both her legs having been amputated and dialysis being performed on her every two days or so. She was not expecting her end so soon for she had written to us of her intention to visit Sri Lanka in November to attend the death anniversary of President Jayewardene.
May she attain Nibbana.
Secretary General
J.R. Jayewardene Centre

A rare gem too good to lose
Dr. Naushad Ponraj
The sudden and untimely demise of Dr. Naushad Ponraj, has cast a gloom in the hearts of all those who crossed his pathway in life. At times, death comes like a thief in the night... sudden and unannounced.

So it was in Dr. Naushad's case on July 6, when he left without saying 'goodbye', casting a veil of gloom. In the hearts of all those who knew and loved him.

Both Dr. Naushad and his wife Dr. Grace served God by touching the lives of many. Those who came for treatment were given a patient hearing. They were comforted, cheered and encouraged by their words, driving away doubts and fears.

To the writer, they were just Naushad and Grace. Titles and tags before and after their names meant nothing in life to this couple. Professional qualifications and titles were only tags to announce to the rest of the world that they are doctors.

Kind and gentle, Naushad would lend both his time and knowledge lavishly to treat every single patient. In short , to all who knew him, he was an epitome of simplicity, humility and kindness personified, with his loving, understanding and helpful nature. It will not be incorrect to say, that Naushad could sit with kings and still not lose the common touch.

Many will testify about his great qualities. He was a rare gem, too good to lose and too young to die. I have never seen him angry, raise his voice, take revenge or talk ill of others. He never attempted to judge others for he knew no one is perfect.

Did God decide to have a rare blossom in His garden? Could not his wife, his siblings, his loved ones and his patients, have had him longer in their midst? Was not Naushad openly loved and silently admired by both young and old, rich and poor?

I remember Naushad's mother telling me that she named her son after a famous musician. Her hopes were not in vain, for many may not be aware of the musical talents of this gentle doctor. His healing hands had swept over the keyboards often, bringing healing sounds to the mind and soul.

Naushad has left behind a treasure trove of beautiful memories. Memories that will linger in the hearts of all those who have known and loved him in life. It was James Barrie who said, “God gives us memories so that we could have roses in December”.

The roses in the form of sweet memories which Naushad has left behind will never fade away.
Sarojini Raju

LVJ was a unique man
L.V.J. Fernando
The sudden demise of L.V.J. Fernando was indeed sad for all of us who were privileged to have moved with him closely and intimately. 'LVJ' (to us, his friends) and I were selected to the National Small Industries Corporation way back in the sixties by the then General Manager, D.B.I.P.S. Siriwardene, great scholar and administrator and a legend of his time.

With the closure of the NSIC in 1972, both LVJ and I opted to join the Ceylon Plywoods Corporation, which in the course of time also suffered the same fate, due to the usual political and bureaucratic bungling.

Consequently we were among the many who opted to retire prematurely. Though LVJ decided to enjoy the fullness of retirement with his family and I opted to lead a life of work, we kept our friendship.

At both the NSIC and CPC, LVJ handled local supplies while I the foreign component. Throughout his career he was methodical and loved his work so much that he did not leave any room for complaint.

He loved sports too and found time for a game of carrom or table tennis during the lunch recess or after work in the evenings. A good practising Buddhist, he believed in the simple theory, that to love and be kind to another fellow being without harming him in any way were the basic tenets of Buddhism and other religions as well.

Pragmatic in his way of thinking, he did not accept anything at face value.
It is said a life lived short or long achieves its full potential . Each life like a flower is a unique creation and LVJ was such a one.

J.I. Rosairo

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