The Late Mr CJT Thamotheram
May I start with a famous quotation,” In this world of wars and strife, jealousy and fear, hatred and vengeance, there is yet a beacon light.” Unfortunately, our beacon light was extinguished in the early hours of Thursday 27 October 2005.
I met Mr Thamotheram in 1948, at Wesley College , Colombo a few months after the so-called Ceylon Independence. Mr Thamotheram was my maths teacher. I was never a diligent student, but due to his efforts I obtained a distinction in Advanced mathematics.. He was a conscientious and able teacher, friendly and simple. He was admired and respected by all students and staff. Mr Mohamed Sheriff, a fellow student at Wesley College , now residing in New York sent me a message the other day that reads, “ It is indeed heart breaking to know the passing away of Mr. Thamotheram. I knew him very well and he was a fine man and a gentleman. Kindly convey my sincere condolences to his family and relations”
I left Wesley College to continue my studies in India and after more than a decade caught up with Mr Thamotheram in 1964 in London . Charles Dickens describing the period , in the ‘Tale of Two cities', wrote,” It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. This was the situation in London . in the sixties. Beatles music and ‘flower power' were evident everywhere. The Commonwealth teachers needed a voice and subjected to very low glass ceiling in their work places and buying or renting a property by them was almost impossible. There were announcements on the windows of properties for rent in Central London ' No coloureds, no blacks, no Irish, no dogs.” Mr Thamotheram was a person of vision. He knew the problems teachers from the commonwealth were facing. We were both teachers, me a reluctant one while Mr Thamotheram was a dedicated teacher at a prestigious school in Hammersmith. We discussed the problems facing the commonwealth teachers and decided to start the Association of Commonwealth Teachers. Soon it became an effective body between the Commonwealth teachers and the Education Authority, London County Council. at that time. The media too took special interest in this organisation and Mr Thamotheram was approached at all times for interviews. In addition to being the President he also became the spokesman for ACT while I concentrated on the job of being the General Secretary.
Then there was a gap of a few decades before I renewed my contact with Mr Thamotheram. In April of this year I was at the launch of Sivananayagam's book, *Sri Lanka-Witness to History”. I saw an elderly gentleman being helped to the rostrum in the Sivayogam Hall, Tooting. I soon realised that it was my hero and mentor, Mr Thamotheram. During the interval, I went up to the rostrum and introduced myself. He soon recognised me and invited me to visit him at his home. I did make a few visits before he was hospitalised. During the summer months, he would call me daily and would say “ Jeevam, What is the latest news? I would read out the RSS articles from TamilNet and other electronic media; He was concerned about the suffering of our people and was very sad to learn about the regular killings especially in the East of Sri Lanka. He was a true human being who kept on wishing that permanent peace would be ushered in during his lifetime.
He was concerned about dis- information being dished out by the Sri Lankan Government and it's stooges that live in various parts of the world on a regular basis attacking the aspirations of the Tamil nation. He told me that to counter this dis-information a powerful group of writers and academics should get together as a body. He added that Tamil Writers Guild that he had conceived was now a reality and should concentrate on giving the true facts of our national struggle. He invited me to join the group.
Unfortunately, his health started failing. He was in and out of hospitals during September and October. Fortunately, his extended family was always there to look after him and was a great support.
A few days before his passing away, Charles Somasundrum and I visited him. He was, we believe, on strike, having refused food or liquid refreshments. He had, in fact, mentioned to me some days earlier that the food that he was served was very bland and that he would prefer the real Jaffna cuisine. He added ‘ if I can't eat the food I like, it is better to go'.
When he saw the two of us standing beside his hospital bed. his eyes gleamed. Later, he wanted us to give him hot tea and water that he consumed with a bit of help from Charles. He also wanted a piece of chocolate that Charles had brought with him. And this must have been the only solid that he consumed for some days. Then he requested us to sit him up on the bed so that he could chat with us properly. Inspite of his fragility his mind was very active. Earlier, He asked us whether we had brought photocopies of articles from newspapers/electronic media about the latest situation in North East.
I would like to conclude with the words of Brian Senewiratne who is amongst us”
“ Unlike so many of his vintage who, having left Sri Lanka, have sat on their hands doing nothing other than hallucinating about the future, Jeyam acted in his own inimitable way.”
He was a true patriot, a catalyst for numerous actions taken by some in the community and a real human being. His passing away is a great loss to all of us.