A Lifetime of Memories
This is a brief tribute to Ivan on the occasion of his cremation, an event none of us would have wanted to happen and particularly rather earlier than we thought. We would be all united in our expression of a sense of deep sorrow at Ivan leaving us even without the farewell he so rightly deserved. It was not long ago that many of us were gathered at the funeral of Indra, Ivan’s dear wife who would join us in our deep regrets at Ivan’s quiet departure.
I say that because there are many who would have wished to pay tribute to him for his achievements and above all for whom he was and his openhearted response to any one who needed his help or asked for help. His empathy for those in need was legendary. There are many who would vouch for the extra mile that Ivan went when there was someone in need. Ivan’s collaboration with Fr. S. J. Emmanuel in the fight for the rights of the Tamils is legendary. One could sense a moral anger to see the oppression of his people. His prolific publications was not only a contribution to the struggle but was works of literature.
There is one more quality about Ivan I would extol before I move on to our personal friendship. This is perhaps best expressed by my son in his tribute to Ivan. I quote: “My abiding memory of him will be his ability to develop and articulate his arguments so clearly. It is a skill I much admired. I remember Rukshi (my daughter)telling me after a conversation with him about a medical matter at how astounded she was by how well informed he was on the topic and searching questions he had about the material he had researched. He had a fabulous intellect”. I need say no more.
I knew Ivan when we were in our early teens. He just lived round the corner from me and so we have been friends for a long time. Our relationship extended in our adulthood when Ivan married my wife Theresa’s sister. That is a long story in itself. But briefly Indra persuaded her sister to accept my offer and I repaid the compliment to Indra and I van joined the Rayappu clan!
Ivan’s house had two big advantages. It had a long veranda and a quadrangle well suited for badminton. The veranda which served as a cricket pitch long enough for Ivan to display his capabilities as a fast bowler. We only had a ball that was made of news paper or brown paper and bound together with a lot of string. It must have been a great disappointment to Ivan when he realised that the practise I had facing his fast bowling went a long way to my ending up as an opening batsman for St. Patrick’s College. Ivan’s run up practise did go a little towards his prowess as a long jumper and a sprinter.
There are a few other sides to Ivan which his friends associated with the lion which roared at the ‘Sinhala lion.’ There was also a lamb which flowed with empathy. But the lamb in Ivan had two heads: the one that very few witnessed. Ivan and I got tickets to watch wrestling matches Dara Singh and King Kong in action at the SPC carnival. It was all fine for Ivan as long as the wrestlers were apart, but the moment one griped the other or dealt blows with blood flowing, Ivan had his head buried in his hands, asking have they stopped. Of course it gave me great pleasure to tell him they were miles apart when they were still trying to break each other’s neck. On another occasion Indra while stitching on the machine managed to get the needle go right through the finger. Ivan was out of the room like a shot crying for help and returned when the needle was safely out of Indra’s finger. Theresa could never get tired of relating this story to demonstrate Ivan’s softer side.
Ivan contributed a lot to the Tamil chaplaincy when he became very close to Fr. Rajan. Fr. Chandrakanthan and SJ were close associates and friends of Ivan in the Tamil cause. I have never seen such affection that Ivan had for his grand children.
Ivan had his political side too. He was delighted when Jeremy Corbyn invited him to be a candidate as an MEP. Needles to say he was thoroughly elated but pointed out to the labour leader that someone walking with a Zimmer frame would perhaps nor be an ideal choice!
Ivan will be missed by many, especially because they could not wish him good bye. But Ivan could rest in peace knowing that are many whom he had touched deeply. He would be remembered by many for a long time to come. Dare I say his memory would go to the grave with many who will remember most fondly.