It was just as well, perhaps, that my friend James Senaratna passed away recently. A foot injury from an old motor accident began to play up, getting progressively worse until it confined him to his armchair.
James was a gregarious man who led an active life. Isolation, inactivity and boredom would have weighed heavily on him. He would talk endlessly whenever I called him. He never called me - typical of him, he did not want to impose himself upon friends. He never asked for help. He would gloss over his ailments, insist he was happy and with plenty to read from his vast library of tattered books. He also enjoyed looking back on days gone by.
He had much to reminisce about: He played rugby for Royal, was a good swimmer and qualified in life-saving, and even as a schoolboy had saved sea-bathers from drowning.
He liked English literature and Greek mythology.
On leaving school, he joined the Police Force and captained the police rugby team. He risked his life saving a teenager from the Deduru Oya. when it was in spate; he again saved a man struggling in the sea off Jaffna, and yet again saved a fisherman whose boat had landed off the Mannar coast. He never claimed the customary police award for any of these acts. He did what was necessary and thought nothing of it. He took great satisfaction in looking back on those days.
James told me he loved police work, but that it often brought him face to face with VIPs who would not take no for an answer. His superiors usually stood by him on such matters, but there were some who did not. This was during the Sixties, and he was finding it increasingly difficult to stand up for what was right. So he resigned from his job. He gave up a secure career he loved in order to retain his dignity and independence.
After leaving the Police, James joined Lake House as Chief Security Officer, where he continued his “police” work unhampered by politics.
When Lake House was taken over by the government, the new management terminated his services. No reason was given. James sued Lake House and was awarded compensation, but his dismissal was not rescinded.
James’s last job was with CIC Ltd as security officer. He was soon back in his element. CIC Ltd valued his integrity, competence and commitment and persuaded him to set up his own firm, on the understanding that CIC would divert all its security work to him. They gave him an office on their premises. James stayed with CIC until infirmity forced him to give up active security work.
James weighed more than 200 pounds in the prime years of his life. He was in superb physical condition and excellent health for most of his life. This and the clean honest life he led gave him a courage he retained all his life.
He was looked after by his daughter to the end. He spoiled his grandchildren, the way grandparents do.
Though not a religious man, James led a good and honest life, loved many, and, as far as I know, hated none. The pleasure he derived from looking back on his past says it all.
I wish him well.