Indrakumar Kulasingam (Kula to his friends) passed away peacefully on 15 May, 2012, aged 56 years. His passing will be felt by many around the world especially by his lovely wife Raji, his family and close friends, and that motley Band of Brothers who make up the Class of 71 from St Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia.
The three of us spent a mellow Saturday evening (into Sunday morning) in the company of Indran, Raji and Peter Vanniasingham in Auckland on 21 April. We travelled to NZ so that we could spend a few hours with the man who eventually brought us, the Class of 71, together after almost 40 years of going on our various separate life journeys post STC.
Our travel to NZ to be with him was triggered by his matter of fact e-mail sent to all the members of the Class of 71 bidding them adieu.
But there is a story that leads to this, and for Indran and posterity, we d like to tell it.
Our re-collections go back to a magic Saturday evening in May 2011 at Darling Harbour, Sydney when a number of the STC Australia/NZ connection met and broke bread together fondly recollecting tales of “derring-do” from their time at the ‘School by the Sea’. The catalyst for the gathering was Indran who, greatly assisted by his assorted Sydney accomplices, had pulled the evening together. The three of us, along with Cader and Varney, ended up at Jilla’s hotel later that evening – drinking expensive shots paid for by Jilla of course. I think it was then that we came to the realisation that we would never have reconnected as a group without Indran’s hard work, persistence and intervention.
A number of us made a decision that day, shamed into it by Indran, to support T.A. Mendis at the OBA Dance in Melbourne in the coming August. Indran flew in from NZ with his lovely wife by his side, his sole reason in being there was to support his class-mate (Trevor Mendis) who is the current President of the STC OBA in Melbourne. It tells you something special about this man. He travelled all that distance to attend an OBA
dinner dance simply to support a mate!
We had a great time together often breaking to the reception area outside of the dance hall to swap more stories of our halcyon days together at Galkissa.
On that night a broad plan was hatched to make a big push to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the year that most of us started school at Mount, in 1963. 2013 was an achievable target and the planning commenced. We arranged to meet in Melbourne end of February to refine plans. Manilal de Mel was to be there as our ‘man from Colombo’.
In between time e-mails and much information was swapped in attempts to nail down dates for 2013. We finally arrived at a tentative date of 10 Mar 2013, the day after the ‘Big Match’ as the date that we’d all once again gather in Mount Lavinia, possibly for the last time, as a group.
On 26 Feb ‘12, at Kilsyth on the outer fringe of Melbourne, we enjoyed a delicious Lankan smorgasbord lunch overseen by Graham Blaze, younger brother of Hans. Indran however seemed very quiet and off-colour suffering with what appeared to be a smoker’s cough.
He brushed off concerns by his mates suggesting that it was just a minor throat infection, nothing to be worried about. He was more concerned for Manilal who had to return to Colombo urgently due to a family member’s illness. He was also focussed on getting details into place for our ‘Galkissa Here We Come Again’ proposed Mar 2013 event.
But an email sent to all his class mates on the 5th of April changed everything.
Indran wrote us all explaining, in that most matter of fact manner, that he had inoperable cancer and would not see the year out! His main concern was passing on his database for the Class of 1971, a project he had commenced in 2005, and to thank Manilal and Rohan Jayasinghe for taking over this onerous task.
To say that the news shocked all of us would be the understatement of the year. We three decided very quickly that we just had to go visit him at least once more and flew into Auckland together. We were met at the Airport by Peter Van who very
generously hosted us a lunch at the waterfront – another story for another day – before we visited Indran and Raji at home for delicious rice, curries and ‘pol sambol’ dinner. Indran gave us notice that he intended to replicate a famous “tuck shop staple” to remind us of one of the great adolescent treats we d all shared so long ago!
According to Raji, Indran’s spirits picked up greatly that Saturday afternoon knowing we were arriving. We in turn were honoured that our presence had revived him sufficiently and allowed him to regain his wit and full repartee for the entire time we were there.
It was a fantastic evening, all of us discussing everything from how many Hatch brothers there had been in college, to how Peter V had been slapped by “LaJBa”, to the big fights that we’d been able to view close up between some of the “giants” of our Class of 71!
Somewhere in there, the merits of a quality education may even have been discussed!!
Late in the evening Peter V told us a tale about Indran and the great work he had done in bringing to account a huge fraud perpetrated by Directors of a New Zealand company named Bridgecorp. Bridgecorp defrauded 14,500 odd New Zealanders for close to $500 Mil NZ dollars.
It was Indran, the internal audit and risk manager, who discovered the fraud and brought it to the attention of the regulatory authorities – thereby effectively sentenced himself to18 months in court leading the evidentiary effort and inviting on himself huge levels of stress in bringing the crooked company directors to justice. He couldn’t share this information with anyone as he was sworn to secrecy.
It was possibly associated stress that led to Indran’s illness. Sadly we will never know.
But what we do know now, was that we had a quiet and unassuming hero of a class-mate. An ethical and just man who showed enormous integrity, real moral courage, great professionalism and a devotion to duty that clearly went above and beyond what was required of him; these are values we hope we all have when it comes to the crunch. But Indran amply demonstrated them under extreme duress. He was our selfless hero.
We said fond farewells that evening and again the next morning. Hoping against hope that it was all just a bad dream. And that Indran would show up, as planned on March 2013 in Colombo to kick off celebrations commemorating 50 years since we started at our School by the Sea. That is now not to be.
All of us need to make real efforts to keep in touch and try our darndest to be there next March. We need to remember those who’ve gone before us at this time.
We need to honour Indran and his ‘priceless gift’ – Manilal’s term – which in his own humble way, he bequeathed to ALL OF US, to make of it what we might.
F.Grigson, J.Jilla, T.A.Mendis.