Former Badulla MP K.V. Nadarajah passes away

by Kirthie Abeyesekera
The passing away at age 96, of K. V. Nadarajah, the Badulla attorney-at-law and a former Member of Parliament, brings to a close, another chapter in the chequered history of Uva’s provincial capital.

I was a schoolboy at Uva college when KVN had a thriving legal practice at the Badulla bar. I recall the fair and handsome lawyer, a chain-smoker, neatly dressed in a white satin drill suit. A popular figure at the Badulla Sports Club, he enjoyed a game of poker.

When I reached majority at 21, I had some legal dealings with him, since he represented the buyer of my late father’s Bandarawela tea estate. KVN was a kind and compassionate man who was genuinely concerned at the misfortune that befell me on the loss of my inheritance.

Later, as an office-bearer of the Uva Young Men’s Buddhist Association, I would often meet KVN. Although a non-Sinhalese, and a devout Hindu, he was one of the chief benefactors of the YMBA. We never returned with a refusal on our many visits to his hospitable home, seeking his assistance for various activities of the Association. He was an ardent supporter of the pioneering efforts of the YMBA in building the Visakha Vidyalaya which today, is the leading Buddhist girls’ school in Uva.

In the first post-Independence parliamentary elections in 1947, KVN won the Bandarawela seat as an Independent candidate, and served as Member of Parliament till 1952. Although there was a sizeable vote among the tea plantation workers who too, enjoyed the franchise, KVN was supported by the vast majority of Sinhalese as well. In fact, his election campaign was led by D. J. Horadugoda, another Badulla lawyer.

It was an era when Uva was reputed for its communal harmony. We, in Badulla, took pride that Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Malays, Burghers and Eurasians, lived like one family. There was a considerable degree of inter-socialization among the various ethnic groups, and no one, in those proverbial good old days, spoke in terms of race or religion.

K. V. Nadarajah was very much a part of that fraternity. It therefore, came as a rude shock to me in Canada, when in those dark days of July, 1983, Badulla too was not spared the racial hatred that swept across the land. KVN’s beautiful residence at Pingarawa, was burned to the ground. He had to flee for safety, escorted by his good friend and erstwhile parliamentary colleague, J. C. T. (Jack) Kotelawela, the former M.P. for Badulla, who took the Nadarajah family to the safety of his Barnes Place residence in Colombo.

"I had nowhere to go," KYN would say later. "Jaffna was never my home. I have never even been there. It was Badulla that was home to me". Later, the Nadarajahs moved to Washington. In 1990, KVN lost his wife of 56 years, Gnanamany, after a long illness. She was a gracious lady who had stood by her husband’s side, and was also, very much, a part of the Badulla life.

I wrote to KVN. "Your condolences gave me much comfort and relief," he wrote back, "thank you for writing and sharing my grief and emphasizing the common denominator philosophy of all religions that death is not all that bad and terrible, and parting with loved ones must be taken in its stride...."

In 1990, he had read my memoirs, ‘Among My Souvenirs’ in which there is a reference to the Nadarajah family of Badulla. He wrote to me from Washington: "Reading the book, my memory went back to the days when I had the pleasure of meeting and knowing you as a promising young man. He congratulated me and wished me greater success, adding that "I am proud of you. You have not belied my hopes".

During my 1996 sojourn from Canada in the Homeland, KVN was living in Ja-ela. He wanted to see me, as much as I wished to meet him. I did not get the chance - something I deeply regretted thereafter. KVN bore no bitterness about the events of 1983 when he lost his Badulla. He always wanted to return to Sri Lanka. "That’s where I belong," he would say.

K. V. Nadarajah leaves his only son, Bala, also a lawyer, Bala’s German wife, Kristina and their children, Stefan and Nadine. He also leaves indelible memories of the Badulla that will never be the same again.