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Sivanayagam; an editor par excellance, an ardent devotee of Sathya Sai


- By V. Varathasuntharam

Centenary birth anniversary of legendary Tamil Newspaper Editor and staunch Sai devotee late S.T.Sivanayagam falls on today, July 2.

It is with rejoice that I pen a few lines to commemorate his memory as one who had had the privilege to work under him as a free lance journalist of Thinapathy daily Tamil newspaper and Sithamany, Tamil weekly.

I had the opportunity to learn the skill of journalistic writing and what is more the ethics of journalism at his feet.

As one who has been in the field of Tamil and English journalism for about six decades, I recognize him as my mentor in my journalistic career.

I see him as an Editor with a fund of experience.

I see him as an Editor who strived hard to raise the skill of reporting among journalists.

I see him as an Editor who was committed to enhance the financial income of the journalists.

I see him as an Editor who defended the journalists who were confronted by unfair interference by persons in power in the discharge of their legitimate duties honestly and sincerely.

I see him as an Editor who insisted on journalists to observe the ethics of journalism at all times.

What is more I see him as a formidable Editor who braved the weather of opposition and criticism from all quarters and stood steadfastly to express his opinion on current issues fearlessly and in a fair and impartial manner for the well being of the people.

More than everything, I respect him as a Sai devotee committed to the wellbeing of all humanity irrespective of status, race, language or religion.

The Suthanthiran newspaper edited by him played a key role in popularizing the concept of federalism – sharing of powers between the Centre and regions or provinces in a united and undivided Sri Lanka- advocated by SJV Chelvanayagam who founded the Illankai Tamil Arasu Katchi, Federal Party. His editorship of Suthanthiran led to the victory of ITAK in parliamentary elections and to promote the just cause of the Tamils and the leadership of Chelvanayagam. Through his Editorship of Suthanthiran, he made an impact on the Tamils people in the North, East and the hill country to be united and gave an impetus to the call to recognize Chelvanayagm as ‘Thanthai Chelva’.

As Editor of Thinapathy, he would spend hours with journalists to improve their skills of penning. When unfair criticisms are made against journalists in the discharge of their duties, he would stand by them.

He had been a popular columnist whose penning was eagerly read by readers. Athany Mandapaam column of his was very popular among readers. As Editor of Suthanthiran, he encouraged the young to get interested in writing artilcles and poems. Many Sri Lankan Tamil and Muslim writers of today were groomed under him. The question and answer column of his under the title Quikthiyar in the Suthanthiran was full of fun and was meaningful.

As I think of him now, nostalgic memories of my association with him rush to my mind. He was a son of the Trincomalee soil. He had been an old student of Trincomalee St.Joseph’s College. My first association with him was when I was a child of eight or nine in the late forties or early fifties, when I accompanied my Periyamma Sivakamiamma travelling in a rickshaw from our residence at New Chetty Street to meet him at his Suthanthiran Office at Silversmith Street in Colombo. He had affection to my Periyamma and this continued until her demise. On her death, he sent a condolence message praising her for her qualities and her contribution to strengthen an extended family of Sivasubramaniam.

Later in my youth, he had been a source of inspiration to write. When I wrote a book on Trincomalee Pathirakali Amman, he contributed an article dwelling on Kali worship and his devotion to Ambal. When I inaugurated Sivakamy Amma Publication in her memory, he welcomed it and encouraged me. It was he who named our Tamil magazine as Sannithy.

He welcomed the launch of ‘Shrine’ and ‘Sannithy’ magazines edited by me and published by Sivakamiammal Publications since they promoted the teachings of Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

I vividly remember him telling Mr. Sivasubramaniam, my Periyamama decades ago at his Thinapthy Newspaper office, “Annan tell your brother Nadesapilli Annan that his son Vithyatharan, who is employed with us, will one day shine, bloom as a veteran editor with his penning and bring him pride. He has the hallmark.” On hearing this Periyamama was so delighted and overjoyed that he lit his favourite Navycut cigarette as he climed down the stairs of the Thinapathy, Sun office. Today, Vithyatharn has proved his mettle. What a foresight Sivanayagam Iya had!

What stands out is Sivanayagam Iya’s Himalayan contribution to society is his devotion and dedication to Sri Sathya Sai Baba and the service he had rendered through the Sri Sathya Sai Baba Centre of Colombo. In his case, it was a question of a disbeliever of Sri Sathya Sai Baba becoming a staunch devotee. It was a great transformation.

He became the first President of Colombo Sai Baba Centre in 1975 and continued to hold that post until 2000. In 1978 when he went on a pilgrimage to White Field, he had the good fortune to be called for interview by Bagawan Baba and to be blessed with a ring carrying the pictures of Sri Sathya Sai Baba on top and Sree Shirdi Sai Baba below.

Let me express the respect I have for his better half Mangalawathi. I had associated with her since my childhood for she had been sharing a room in our house in New Chetty Street when she got appointment as a teacher at Vivekananda Vidyalayam in Colombo in the late forties if I remember right. As she went to Vivekanda Vidyalaym to teach, she would take me also with her daily as I was then a student in the primary class of the same Vidyalayam run by Vivekananda Society. My Periyamma Sivakamy Amma and our family members were attached to her for she won our affection and respect through her affable manners.

She had been a tower of strength to her husband all his life.

She too had made great contribution in serving Sai Baba. She had been the Founder Chairperson of Sai Centre Ladies’ Wing for forty long yers. She had been a senior member of the Sathya Sai Trust of Sri Trust of Sri Lanka. She was respectfully addressed as ‘Amma’ by Sai brothers and Sai sisters in the Sai Centre.

What is remarkable about her was that she played a wonderful role in the unbelievable transformation of her husband Siva Nayagam from being a non believer in Sai Baba to be an ardent follower of Bagawan Baba!

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