Saturday, July 03, 2010

A. B. Patel, C. V. Devan Nair, V. Murugesu, & K.S. Rajah

We dedicate this issue of our Newsletter to this unique man whom we fondly remember as Mr K S Rajah, as our Uncle Rajah, our leader, our mentor, our friend and more. Besides the message from the editorial, we include in the next few pages words of members of the society and long standing friends of Mr Rajah and the society. The August issue of the Newsletter will carry more tributes from members, friends and well wishers.
Mr K S Rajah, Chairman of Sri Aurobindo Society, Singapore passed away peacefully on the morning of 17 June 2010 after putting up a brave battle with cancer of the blood vessels for the past one year. The society stands by the bereaved family of the departed in prayer.
Mr Rajah’s service to the society spans some 40 decades, first as a committee member and then as its chairman from 2001. During his tenure as chairman of the society, Mr Rajah had made remarkable contributions to the society, being instrumental in its evolution into what it is today, a vibrant centre with various activities carried out spontaneously by members who responded to his own enthusiasm and unconditional trust. Mr Rajah quietly set the tone that we all freely imbibed, finding fulfillment in the work we did for its own sake.

As Chairman of the Society, K.S. Rajah brought to that office a humility, tolerance and kindness straight from the heart, in addition to the sound judgment he had displayed throughout a legal career culminating in his appointment to the High Court of Singapore. It was a privilege to sit next to him during the Society's celebration of the Mother's birthday earlier this year. Our Chairman had just been released from hospital where he had undergone major surgery, and his head was swathed in bandages, yet his expression was serene, and the words he spoke full of encouragement and hope. As I sat there listening, something I had read long before about the tradition of Karma yoga came into my mind. We journey through many lives in our quest for the Divine, and those who do well may be rewarded on the way by wealth or high office and the respect of their peers. But for some the highest possible reward is granted - to become a teacher of yoga!
I realised then that our dear Mr Rajah, not just through his careful study but by his living example, could count among his life's many achievements the greatest of them all - quietly, without fanfare or fuss, he had become 'a teacher of yoga'. Sonia Dyne, Former Chairperson, Sri Aurobindo Society, Singapore

Kasinather Sauthararajah S.C.P.B.M. (3 March 1930 – 17 June 2010),[1] known professionally as K.S. Rajah, was a Senior Counsel and former Judicial Commissioner of theSupreme Court of Singapore. Born in Penang, he came to Singapore in 1950 and worked as a teacher before embarking on part-time law studies at what was later known as the University of Singapore, graduating in 1963 with a Bachelor of Laws with honours (LL.B. (Hons.)). He then spent the next 22 years with the Singapore Legal Service, eventually heading the civil and criminal divisions of the Attorney-General's Chambers and also serving as Director of the Singapore Legal Aid Bureau and head of the Official Assignee and Public Trustee's Office. In 1985 he retired from the Legal Service and went into private practice, establishing the firm of B. Rao & K.S. Rajah. … Active in volunteer work, Rajah was the Chairman of the Sri Aurobindo Society Singapore[31]

He was instrumental in creating the Sri Aurobindo Society and spearheaded the movement's work in Sri Lanka.
Vellupillai Murugesu (fondly known as "Freddie") passed away on Saturday 20th March 2010 at the age of 86. Though I was aware that he endured poor health for some short time, the news of his demise through a text message from his son, Nithianandan on that early Saturday morning reiterated not only the impermanence of life, but the realisation that the generation old school legal professionals who epitomised meticulousness, dedication and attention to legal detail is fast diminishing.
Mr. Murugesu was born on the 1st of July 1923 in Balangoda. Having had his early education at St Aloysius College Ratnapura and St Joseph’s College Colombo, He entered the Law College in 1945. He took his oaths as a Proctor of the Supreme Court of Ceylon in November 1949 and was admitted as a Solicitor in England and Wales. He completed sixty years as a legal practitioner in November 2009. […]

Philosophical as he was, he was acutely aware that everything has an end and therefore he planned for that inevitable moment when he could no longer play an active role in the daily management of the law firm. This he did without lingering or resorting to counterfactual subterfuges. He was quietly confident in handing over the reins of the firm he so tirelessly built to the next generation. Thus saw the rejuvenation of the firm as Messrs Murugesu & Neelakandan in 1989. He was fortunate to have the immediate family involved in the legal profession and that they were like minded in terms of the depth of knowledge in the law and the meticulousness in the work they performed. The lasting legacy of the founder of the firm would be the commitment to thoroughness and the high standard of work Mr. Murugesu set for himself when he pioneered the setting up himself in the sixties.
Born a Hindu he later became an ardent follower of the teachings and the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo. He was instrumental in creating the Sri Aurobindo Society and spearheaded the movement’s work in Sri Lanka.
Retirement, after such an assiduous career, might have been sadly anticlimactic, but Mr. Murugesu went on to derive much pleasure by concentrating his energies on the unfinished business of completing the Sri Aurobindo Centre and spent his days in meditation, teaching and propagating the philosophical teachings of Sri Aurobindo. Even in retirement and in a vastly different endeavour his appetite for perfectionism never waned. He was relentless in his pursuit and the result is the now completed Sri Aurobindo Centre. Like the law firm he created and fostered with much devotion he left a fine legacy in Colombo for the Sri Aurobindo Movement, which has evolved to be a fine seat of learning and meditation.
His uncompromising sense of devotion, conscientiousness, and meticulousness benefited whatever task he undertook - be it client’s cause, the firm he built or to the faith he believed in. What he achieved as a legal professional and as a man is colossal and he will be remembered with respect and love. It was my privilege to have known him. May he attain Moksha. Anil Tittawella, President’s Counsel

Devan Nair a/l Chengara Veetil, also known as C. V. Devan Nair ... There, he read the writings of Sri Aurobindo, particularly the Life Divine and became his ...
Meeting the Mother for the first time was, unsurprisingly, a turning point in Devan Nair's life. This happened in 1964 during a visit to the Sri Aurobindo ...
Devan Nair was born in 1923 in Jasin, near Malacca, the son of a rubber plantation clerk from Kerala. After passing the war years in Tangkak, Johore, he became a schoolteacher in Singapore. He became active in the anti-colonial movement, for which he was imprisoned twice. He joined the trade union movement as Secretary to the Singapore Teachers’ Union and the Singapore Factory and Shopworkers’ Union. He was a founder member of the PAP and ran in the constituency of Farrer Park in 1955. As Secretary-General of the Natttional Trade Union Congress, he as instrumental in winning union support for the PAP. In 1964, he led the PAP into Malaysian politics, founding the Democratic Action Party (DAP). He was elected to the Malaysian parliament representing Bungsar in 1964. He returned to Singapore in 1969 to resume his post as Secretary General to the NTUC. He was Member of Parliament for Anson, 1979-1981, and President of the Republic of Singapore, 1981-1985.
There was another side to Devan Nair, which does not emerge from the brief biography above. His motive power was more than political ambition: it was an abiding passion for justice and truth. His pragmatism was coupled with the realisation that, ultimately, man does not live by bread alone. When in 1976, the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters was conferred on him by the University of Singapore, the citation ran as follows: He is more than worthy of the honour we wish to bestow on him this morning, for we honour not only the trade unionist but a remarkable individual who is pragmatic yet commands a vision, who is interested in life and letters, who knows both the guts as well as the poetry of the human spirit. It was this rare combination of qualities that drew him to the philosophy and world vision of Sri Aurobindo.  - Sonia Dyne

Sri Aurobindo because he was the philosopher and poet who influenced my father most. Reading his magnum opus, The Life Divine, in prison in 1957 probably played as great, if not greater, role in my father’s break with the Malayan Communist Party than did his disillusionment with the CP’s policies and actions. Among his surviving papers from that period, there are drafts of political essays as well as a few letters and notes detailing conversations with his fellow detainees and their legal advisor, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, but many more exercise books filled with excerpts from his readings in what Leibniz called the philosophia perennis, or perennial philosophy.

Sri A. B. Patel, as we learnt went to East Africa when he was hardly 27. Alongside his professional work – he was a barrister-at-law – he plunged into public service … In 1954 when the first Council of Ministers was formed in Kenya, he was invited … to be one of the Ministers.  (Samar Basu, Earth, an Evolutionary Planet)

A. B. Patel joined in May 1959, and then on April 23, 1960 the name was changed to 'World Union' on The Mother's advice. … A. B. Patel was the leading figure in the organization for many years, ... which draws inspiration from the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, ...

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