Adieu Ana, our dear colleague, mentor and friend! | Sunday Observer

Adieu Ana, our dear colleague, mentor and friend!

Sabaratnam Anandakumar, Associate Editor, Sunday Observer (April 19, 1948 – May 20, 2019)

Our dear colleague Sabaratnam Anandakumar passed away unexpectedly after a brief illness on Monday, May 20, 2019. Ana as he was fondly known to us was well-loved and admired for his commitment to work; and his warm and courageous heart for supporting and helping those who sought his advice and guidance. We are all united in our grief and our memories of his incredible character can never be forgotten. It is indeed hard to believe that our gentle friend, mentor and colleague is no more. We take this moment to share our grief with his beloved wife Chulani, sons Lucien and Yashan and daughter Narmada, some of our memories with a deep sense of loss and disbelief.

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Ana was the best of us

The mood at the Sunday Observer editorial has been sombre this week, as we quietly mourned the passing of our dear friend and colleague Sabarathnam Anandakumar, who passed away peacefully at home on Monday (20). To all of us here at this newspaper, he was known only as ‘Ana’, our friend and the undisputed backbone of the Sunday Observer.

I met Ana only an year ago, when I joined the Sunday Observer team as Editor. Within days, he became my rock, teaching me to navigate the departments, introducing me to people and systems at the Sunday Observer and pointing out their limitations. As the months wore on, I marvelled at Ana’s work ethic. Often on Fridays, he and I would be the last ones at work, discussing page plans for the edition and our endless battles with the advertising department over their encroachment into our constantly shrinking space for editorial content in the pages of the paper.

Beyond his dedication and commitment at work, Ana was a phenomenally gentle human being. Soft-spoken and helpful to everyone, he was a legend at Lake House. Over a 36-year career, he had gotten to know all the secrets of this building, personnel and departments intimately.

Ana played a role in every aspect of producing the Sunday Observer week after week. He was the only one of us who worked a six day week, helping to proof-read and add final touches to the Junior and the Youth sections before moving on to the main sections of the paper as the week wore on. No task that contributed to the printing of this newspaper was beneath him. Ana revelled in all of it – from coordinating transport for all staff on Friday and Saturday, to running down to advertising to get the dummy as early as possible every Friday night, to going downstairs at midnight to pass the first copies of the newspaper as they came off the press. He would do this diligently, ready to stop the presses if there were glaring errors in the first prints.

On Saturday evenings, when the rest of the editorial was mayhem, Ana was our steadying hand, never impatient, never unkind, even though he knew better than any of us the importance of the symbiosis between the deadline and production of the newspaper.

He was probably the only one of us who read the newspaper cover to cover, both before and after press. On Tuesday he would have his copy of the paper in hand, ready to show the sub-editors all the mistakes he had spotted on Sunday.

Even as he was ailing, family members say he continued to monitor the newspaper, meticulously combing the headlines and text for mistakes and pointing them out to whichever colleague happened to pay him a visit. Getting him to take leave, when he became too ill to work, was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. He fought me tooth and nail, until I conceded that he could come in only on Fridays and Saturdays.

Nobody owned the Sunday Observer the way that Ana did. No one lived and breathed it, and loved it unconditionally in the way that he did. He was the best of us, in every way. A journalist and newspaperman to his fingertips. We will all miss his shy smiles and solid dependability.

I never thought I would have to carry on without him.

Dharisha Bastians

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Always meticulous, hard working

As Editor-in-Chief of the Sunday Observer from 2006 to early 2015, I came into contact with Ana when he was Chief Sub Editor of the Sunday Observer and climbed up the ladder to become Deputy Editor and finally Associate Editor.

I found him to be always meticulous and hard working.

In fact I was amazed because from the time he entered the Editorial Office, he got down to work instructing the sub editors. He was a workaholic.

Once the sub editors had finished he would ask for copies, see that all punctuations were right, give the headlines the punch required before sending same for typesetting. He was particularly keen to see that the page makers did pages that were eye catching.

Once the pages were finished he would call for the printouts to fine-comb them. Grammatical mistakes if any were put right. He would only sit back and relax once the paper was put to bed.

All reporters, sub editors and heads of departments connected to the Editorial supported him without a murmur. They found in Ana, a caring and an ever willing helper who they could take their troubles to for his fatherly advice.

He was particularly keen and would always extol the sub editors to send their pages on time. He would not tolerate any delay, because he did not want me as Editor-in-Chief to be blamed for delays.

Especially on Saturdays where the Editorial is a hive of activity where headlines have to be made and deadlines kept he was like a beaver. I was amazed at his indomitable spirit. He would crack a joke to help relieve tension that builds up at the Editorial.

He never grumbled when he had to stay late on Saturday nights. Once the proof of the final edition was brought to him, he would fine-comb each page before finally putting his signature for the editions to be printed. It was only then that he would heave a sigh of relief, telephone me and tell me that everything was okay, before going down to take transport home almost at midnight.

Although his remuneration was not in keeping with his work, he never grumbled or show disappointment. He went about his work with great dexterity and no hard feelings because he had the welfare of the paper at heart.

Towards the latter stages even when his health was failing and he was looking feeble, he attended office and did his work. He had to be forced into taking a few days off because of his poor and failing health. With Ana’s demise the Sunday Observer Editorial will never be the same again. The void will not be easy to fill. In him I found a man who was indispensable. He will be missed by all.

My sympathies to his wife, sons and daughter.

May his soul rest in peace.

Dinesh Weerawansa

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The persevering professional 

I first met Ana in 1994 when for the first time I took up a post in the Sunday Observer, in the government-owned Lake House newspaper group. At that time, having worked entirely in the private sector press, I had a kind of condescending attitude toward the government-run press, seeing it as a kind of ‘kept’ or ‘lapdog’, maintained by the public sector and presumably not having to slog in a competitive market.At the time Ana, was a senior sub editor on the Sunday Observer and its daily evening paper, The Observer - a smaller scale publication.

I quickly learnt that the staff of both newspapers were as competent as those in the private sector. In fact it was Ana who as Senior Sub held much responsibility for editing the material submitted by the news reporters, who made me realise the high standard of language and style maintained by the staff.

After several years of working with him, I learnt much, especially in the maintenance of a high standard of writing and a meticulous operational efficiency. Over the years, as he rose in rank, I realised that he had become the mainstay in the news copy processing side of things. Indeed, when I too rose in rank and took on Editorship of The Observer and then the Sunday Observer, I realised the invaluable role Ana played in being the efficiency guardian of news copy processing and page management.

Whether we like it or not, Ana stood by to warn us when deadlines approached and helped out in quickening the process. He was highly respected, by those in the Printing and Production divisions of the giant Lake House establishment. Why? Because as senior processing manager, it was he who ensured that the material produced by the news room reached the Production side with enough time for them to do their technical work and get the paper printed on time.

Those who know the pace of production of a newspaper know the significance of the Print Deadline, the moment that completes a news production cycle when the momentum shifts to the printing phase and no more ‘news’ can be taken for that edition.

Even if some sudden news event delayed the news output, Ana was there to liaise with Production and help cut corners to ensure that the whole process went through on time. In fact, as old timers in Production joked, Ana may have been able to produce the entire newspaper on his own before sending it into print.

I always used to think that Ana’s deep, somewhat gravelly, bass voice would have sounded nice in a choir. And that’s how I will remember him – that voice of reassuring depth, bringing a note of calm to those usual, final moments of news room frenzy to catch the print deadline, reminding us all that even if a deadline is, certainly, a ‘full-stop’ for that session of work, it was not quite the end of the world. In the world that now continues without him, we will remember Ana’s ordering, sustaining, role in producing a newspaper.

Lakshman Gunasekera

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A gentleman to his fingertips

Death is certainly no respecter of age or persons. When death snatched from our midst, my dear friend and colleague, Sabarathnam Anandakumar on May 20,2019, it was exceedingly difficult to come to terms with it. He was 71.

Ana as he was affectionately known had a long and distinguished career in the Sunday Observer spanning 36 years.

A gentleman to his fingertips, he won the hearts and minds of all those around him and this laudable trait endeared him to the editors, with whom he had the good fortune to work with.

Born into an orthodox Hindu family, Ana was imbued by deep religious convictions. He was a product of Hartley College, Jaffna and St. Sylvester’s College, Kandy and completed his tertiary education in Madras, India.

Dapper, at all times, Ana was the lifeblood of the Sunday Observer where he burnt the midnight oil, so to speak and his joy knew no bounds when he went down, several flights of steps to pass the Late City edition around midnight. He took pride in his work and kept sub-editors on their toes when it came to tight deadlines.

Having started life as an Accounts Clerk at the Meetotamulla CTB bus depot, where he worked for almost nine years, he perhaps realised that he was made for sterner stuff. Smitten by the journalist bug, no doubt, Ana plunged headlong into mainstream journalism and joined the Sunday Observer in 1983 and worked under a galaxy of eminent editors. He made vast strides and climbed the ladder in the journalistic firmament - from Sub-editor to Chief Sub Editor to Deputy Editor and then Associate Editor by grit of determination and dint of hard work. He was candid and forthright in whatever he did. He handled page one of the Sunday Observer for many years.

The Community page was his forte for which he interacted with a multitude of correspondents and people from all strata of society and all walks of life.

This would have perhaps, inspired his daughter Narmada to follow in her father’s footsteps and join the Daily News as a sub-editor in August last year.

Nostalgic memories cross my mind when I take a flashback to the times we worked together because every moment was happiness, despite the throes of work on a hectic Saturday. May hosts of angels sing him to sleep and may his soul rest in eternal peace.

Dudley Jansz

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He did justice to the word ‘gentleman’

It is not everyone that you meet in life that makes an impression on you but Ana was that special someone who did. He was an integral part of the Sunday Observer. Anyone who has worked for the paper or for Lake House knows him.

I had the privilege of knowing Ana for a relatively short three year period. He did justice to the word ‘gentleman’ to the fullest. When he was not engrossed in his work he never failed to share his memories or crack a joke. We will dearly miss them.

The days he stayed back at work he would go out to buy dinner. Never did he return without Murukku for us. The pleasant smile that welcomes us into office will be no more and it will be deeply missed.

Goodbye for now dear Ana, until we meet again!

Anurangi Singh

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I remember his little gestures of caring

Ana as we lovingly called Sabaratnam Anandakumar, Associate Editor, Sunday Observer, passed away as quietly as he lived on Monday, May 20. He was the most senior staffer at the Sunday Observer and if I am not mistaken, he was the longest serving employee at Lake House at the time of his demise.

It must have been a grueling task for him to bid farewell to Lake House which was his home and not his second home. Despite his failing health and the wishes of his family, he was seen around office till his last days. Every time he felt a little better he was back in office, seated at his table, looking as busy as ever.

As his daughter Narmada recalled, a few days before his passing, Ana contemplated coming back to office as soon as his health permitted him. How he felt about the sudden farewell, we will never know now that he has begun his journey to the other world. Life will not be the same without Ana’s jokes, smiling face and his sweets. Being at the table next to him for the past so many months, I was privy to his little gestures of caring, showed by palming off little tit bits after lunch. Our little secret was pumpkin preserve, for which we both shared a common craving. However unlike for me, it was taboo for him.

Ana used to be the live-wire of the Sunday Observer, keeping all loose ends in tact to send the paper on time to production so it reached the stand early next day. It was more of a divine duty for him, which he did without expecting any special favour or gratitude.

He was the bridge between the departments of editorial, advertising, production and the press. Now that this bridge is severed, so suddenly, the Sunday Observer will never be the same again!

Ana, may you attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana!

Manjula Fernando

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Duty at Lake House was his priority

Ana was a jewel of a man. Blessed with gentleness and humility, his smiling face was a pleasant sight at Lake House where dedicated and diligent, he carried out his duty, the priority in his life.

He was a true friend to one and all irrespective of caste, creed, or any other difference. Though he was the Associate Editor of the Sunday Observer, in the event of someone’s need he never did shy away. He was there even for lowest in rank. Such was his humility.

Lake House was his second home for over three decades. The shining light of the Sunday Observer, his sudden departure after a brief illness is a great loss to all those near and dear to him.

As much as he loved Lake House, all at Lake House love him.

May he attain the Supreme bliss of Nibbana!

Anoma Gamage

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 Journalist with impeccable work ethics

When I first saw him about one and a half decades ago in Lake House, he was a very handsome personality, but as anyone and anything is subjected to the vagaries of nature, decay or entropy in physics parlance, his body’s repair mechanism eventually failed, and he passed away last Monday, having lived a full life of just over three scores and ten years.

Ana was a much taller figure than his physical stature in the Sunday Observer Editorial. Almost every one who stepped into the Editorial never turned back without having at least a few words with Ana. He was kindhearted and famous for helping those in need, even those unbeknown to him.

He was so intent on working that he used to come to the office in the recent past and attended editorial work assiduously despite physical frailties even when all insisted that he stays home and relax until he recuperated.

Ana’s leadership and guidance was above par at the office as everyone looked up to him for advice in case of any unmanageable issue. Ana’s spirit was willing, but nature decided otherwise, reminding us of the fleetingness of life and inevitability of nature. As Cosmologist Prof. Carl Sagan said, “The universe is not responsive to our ambitious expectations.”

Life is not what we perceive it to be or what we wish it to be; evidence points it to be a temporary phenomenon emerged in nature with the evolution of the cosmos. The only option left for human beings is to lead a virtuous life in the backdrop of the evanescent nature of life and infinite void of the cosmos.

Damith Jayasekera

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No words could say how much we miss you

You helped me from day one to the last that you paced the corridors of Lake House.You were a father to me. You advised me as a teacher. When you discussed various topics distributing your vast knowledge, you were really a friend.

In today’s Sri Lankan society where everything depends on monetary value, your humane qualities and concern came first, always.

Dear Mr. Ana, may you attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana!

M.I.N. Fernando

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Ana – the quintessential gentleman

I first met Ana – quite the obliging Deputy Editor of the Sunday Observer, when I joined the Business Desk of the newspaper in June 2010. I left the Sunday Observer for a more lucrative assignment after a year’s service and rejoined the esteemed newspaper in August 2017 with Ana’s help.

Saturday was Ana’s day. He would assign the sub editors their pages and push them to get an error free edition out on time. Like a cat on a hot tin roof, he would be running over to the news room, subs desk and layout – identifying bottlenecks and looking for quick fixes.

Ana was friendly and jovial in and out of office. I remember our staff trip to Negombo in October 2017 when he was in the best of spirits singing and joking and taking the lead in encouraging the others to join in the many events and to have fun. To everyone’s delight he was chosen ‘Observer King’ that day.

After Dharisha took over as Editor-in-Chief of the Sunday Observer in 2018, Ana took it on his capable shoulders to see that the transition was smooth. When Dharisha initiated a ‘surprise party’ at the editorial for Ana’s 70th birthday with tinsel, glitter and balloons on April 19 that year, he was overjoyed.

It was good to see him cutting his birthday cake with two others who were also born that day! This year his birthday fell on Good Friday. I was at work but Ana was not. I called him to wish him and he responded with happiness in his voice, “Thank you, my dear”.

The memories are many and mostly joyful, I will remember them.

Good bye Ana! May you attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana.

Nilanthi Amerasinghe

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Anandakumar: the gentleman scribe

“When sorrows come, they come not single but in battalions”- William Shakespeare (Hamlet). As I was reflecting on the death and bloody carnage from Black Sunday, it was worsened by the sad news of the death of our beloved Ana. He was a soft spoken man of few words, but when he spoke his words resonated with wisdom and editorial experience. Ana was a man of multi- faceted talents. My association with this wonderful human being dates back to 2015.

Ana always shared his insight on most features that I wrote, sharing his experience from the ‘Ceylon vintage’. Often on Tuesday mornings he would give me his feedback on the articles I had written from my travels in Jaffna and Trincomalee, for these stories had evoked beautiful flashbacks of his own childhood when he had visited these venues with his father. He was keen on sustaining the cultural diversity of our nation. During our chats he would contemplate the impact of print media in the future. On our last office trip to a hotel in Negombo he entertained us with his intelligent humour. Ana was probably one of the last of the ‘old school’of editors, often walking around with a pencil and pages rolled in one hand, speaking kindly to the folk at page layout.

During my final chat with him, he wanted me to take him and my features editor to the Jaffna restaurant on Kathiresan Street, for he loved spicy food. I regret I could not fulfill this simple wish of my dear old friend. The philosopher Socrates said “It is not living that matters, it is living rightly” and Ana lived brilliantly as a human being and a vibrant editor. Farewell beloved Sir. May the angels carry you to your eternal rest.

Dishan Joseph

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His endearing smile will be missed

I joined Lake House as a cub reporter attached to the Sunday Observer with two other colleagues, Shanika and Chamikara. He didn’t treat us as newcomers, he always wanted to assist us with his knowledge, correcting our grammar, finding fitting phrases and giving colour to the written article. Sometimes, he gave us the freedom to select our own headlines.

Walking down the corridors of Lake House, he made many friends. He was known not only by department heads but also by the drivers in transport, the dispatchers and the clerical staff in the different sections. They knew him as a gentle and a wonderful person in the Sunday Observer editorial. Knowing his good nature, many would come to him seeking to publish their articles or photographs. “I will do something”, was his reply. He handled the Ombudsman column in the Sunday Observer for many years, which was just down his line.

I noticed how fond he was of the ladies, especially in the VDT section.When he returned from the canteen after lunch, the girls loved to flock around him for little chit-chats. Sometimes we teased him saying, “ Oh! Here comes Ana’s girlfriend. Oh! Here comes his other one!”

Ana was the live wire of the Sunday Observer editorial. I have seen the work load he took upon himself. He was a treasure to the many chief editors who relied on him. The trust and the capability he built with the editors and the entire staff could never be replaced. There were many days when he took the responsibility to get the paper out on time with no editor. But he never expected anything from his superiors. His target was to get the paper out on time. At Tuesdays’ editorial meetings he would be praised by the editor saying, “Good job Ana”, at which he would smile in acknowledgement with the corner of his mouth. We will miss his endearing smile.

Anjana Gamage

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You watched over us

As I write this, I remember the last words you ever spoke to me: “ Dimuthu, Manjula was looking for you.” The sentence, did not come out so clear as it was spoken, roughly three weeks ago, when you could barely speak, yet insisted on shuffling into work. The sentence defines quintessentially who you were, always helpful, always giving. From the time I joined Lake House, you did your best to help me unravel the knots in the unyielding red tape at Lake House and manoeuvre through all the perpetual procedures that exists within.

On my second week at work, when my request for the weekly copy of the Sunday Observer was still going through approval procedures, you gave me your copy stamped with your seal, so that I could take the paper home. You also helped me navigate the many stairways and passages within Lake House.

You had good relations with colleagues from across departments, which served well in tight situations.

You once recounted a story of an employee from Admin asking whether Dimuthu is a boy or a girl.“I told her you appear to be female,” you told me with that signature half laugh hidden in your face. You used to find amusement in many things, and sometimes you narrated an old editorial story with a pinch of humour added.

I remember how you were proud of discovering the despised middle names of the editorial staff. You would innocently pull the name out in casual conversation with the subject whose name you had just discovered. But you never told the name to anyone else.

And on Saturday mornings, you used to hound me for the pictures and picture captions, a process that minimised mishaps when working the graphics on the page.

You watched over us, and now that you are gone to a better place, may angels watch over you in the same way.

Dimuthu Attanayake 

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He played his part till the very last

Lake House, or the Sunday Observer to be precise, had many a character and stalwart that I’ve heard of that gave the Editorial a kind of camaraderie which is now fast moving into a thing of the past.

Invited to join its set-up a few seasons ago, I never expected the kind of fellowship enjoyed in other newspapers until this man called Ana, a lanky bloke carrying an old brief case, encountered me one week into my stint.

That day there was confusion all around in what we call the page-making layout section as the deadline for printing was catching up fast. “Please don’t delay the pages, send it soon,” Ana told me. It was a kind of an indirect order.It was the first time I heard his voice and it struck me like an old codger’s. But as the weeks and months rolled by, I realised Ana was my kind of ‘old gent’ who could fit in with the young crowd, hard to find in newspaper Editorials.

Ana was the first person you would recognise in office and if he’s not around, the common Editorial was missing something or somebody, for Ana was there for everybody.

There were times he would put me on a pedestal over what he called “stunning content” in the sports pages and I would back out and have none of the praise, for today’s rainbows can be tomorrow’s teardrops. It was also the only way that I could respect a man whom I always wanted to make comfortable especially when he trooped in to the Sports Desk for a simple chat or inquiry.

Ana once made me so embarrassed or humbled when he begged of me to settle for a lesser number of sports pages in order to make way for advertising or to let the News or Features desks have some space. “Please don’t stare daggers at me,” he said and I knew it was in lighter vein when he informed me the Sports Pages were reduced in numbers.

Ana also knew the Sports Desk would welcome him at any time of the day with any message. He loved to discuss sport and the Sri Lanka cricket team and I saw in him several characters in one. Father, friend, family man and colleague with whom you could have discussed the closest of topics.

I felt it a profound privilege to have had Ana as a fellow journalist no matter the age gap. He was a man young at heart who played his part until the very last.

Callistus Davy

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His memory will linger forever

It is with an extremely heavy heart that I pen these few lines over the loss of our close friend and colleague Ana who left us

after a brief illness. He was a valiant soldier who fought till the very end without cry or complaint. His sickness was not known by many till the very last as he never showed that he was in difficulty, but batted on.

He was very friendly and helpful to one and all, not only at the Sunday Observer, but throughout the establishment. From day one of my career at Lake House, I was privileged to be associated with him.

No words can express the sorrow in our hearts. The beautiful memories of the times we shared with him will linger forever.

At moments of need we will miss him the most. For any request brought to him was treated with utmost respect and care, however trivial it was. He was the best man to go to for advice. Made wise by over three decades of service at Lake House, there was no problem to which he couldn’t find a solution.

Yes, Ana is no more with the Sunday Observer Editorial. However, he will be valued and remembered. His memory will linger forever. May he attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana!

Dehini Pathirana

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Goodbye Ana

I knew you for a short while. And in that short span of time you were able to inspire and support me in the work I do. It’s hard to bid farewell to a person so respected. The office feels so bare without you. It always seems like we have all the time in the world, only to realise how fleeting it really is. You have touched the hearts of so many who owe you a lifetime of gratitude. May your soul rest in peace!

Michelle Henricus

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Ana on my mind

“Where is Ana” is a phrase I often heard from Mr. H.L.D.Mahindapala, the Editor-in-Chief of the Sunday Observer and The Observer in the early 1990s. He would pick up a copy of The Observer, the evening daily of Lake House, run all over the editorial department searching for Ana, who was then a sub editor for the two newspapers.

Journalists attached to the Sunday Observer also worked for The Observer (the only evening English newspaper) published by Lake House then.

Each morning, around 6 am all reporters, sub editors, photographers and minor staff had to report for duty. The editorial department of The Observer was a bee-hive. Reporters got news from telephones, some typing stories on typewriters, photographers develop film rolls in the dark room and sub editors rewrite stories for print with ventilation from ceiling fans.

The deadline was 10 am for finishing the paper, to be out at 12 noon. After a hectic day’s work the staff would relax and some mature journalists leave the premises for a couple of hours for refreshment. Among them was Ana.

In 1992, the evening tabloid, The Observer, revamped its look launching on broadsheet format. Mr. Mahindapala assigned Ana to oversee the sub-desk.

Ana’s passion was subbing text. He had three pens, blue, red and black in his shirt pocket and sometimes a green as well. To correct a graphic, he marked it in two colours stressing the importance of the text correction. He stressed the value of coordination among all departments for optimal success.

If someone wanted to publish an event in the Sunday Observer, they specially came to Ana. “He was a great gentleman who helped anyone who came to him,” said Chintaka, Graphic Executive, Sunday Observer Graphic Department.

Ana was witness to the transition of the editorial and printing industry into digital technology. He did not update his knowledge of these developments and continued his manual subbing until his last days.

Apart from work, he always attended the parties that were organised by the staff of the Sunday Observer. The last party he attended was in Negombo in 2017 where he was crowned ‘Observer King’.

Ana was a constant source of inspiration to all at the Sunday Observer. His demise leaves a void which can never be filled.

Mahil Wijesinghe

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There’ll never be another Ana......

Where do I begin to tell you about the dependability of a colleague and the sincerity of a friend?

‘Ana’ belonged to both these categories and sadly we have now lost him.

When I joined the Observer after my years in broadcasting I didn’t know what to expect. Mr. H.L.D. Mahindapala was the Editor of the Observer then, and it fell on Ana’s shoulders to see me around and introduce me to the Features Section and specially to Ruvini Jayasinghe who was handling some of the feature pages.

“Oh, so you are the Mahes Perera who reads the news bulletins over SLBC! I can now put a face to the voice behind the microphone!” Those were a smiling Ana’s first words to me. “Well, do I fit the bill?” I asked calmly. “Of course, of course” replied Ana, which later on I learnt was his signature come back.

When I reflect on the years that passed, I am amazed as to how Ana went through his work, day in and day out. His table top had piles of letters from readers and photographs for publishing. But he tackled them, interspersed with running to the VDT to check on scripts that were being typed, running down the stairs to the Press to pass the printed pages, or crossing the bridge to the Production Section to give the production people hurried instructions on how the pages should be done or any changes in page numbers. But he enjoyed himself and never complained.

He never complained when he had to work the late night shifts, with no prior knowledge. He had a wife and family waiting for him, but to Ana work came first.

He was a remarkable man. As a colleague and friend, apart from work, he was totally dependable. His day to day rapport with us was always laced with humour and we had many happy moments tossing around stories about one and another, most of them fabricated! But the humour was enjoyable.

Workwise, like I mentioned earlier, he was dependable with a capital D. Before page-making day comes around, you could go to him to check on how many pages the dummy would contain, and if he is unable to give you the answer immediately, he would ring up Advertising and check it for us. What’s more on page making day he will be with us, making his own pages, plus telling us the correct spelling of words, the correct names and spellings of politicians and diplomatic personnel. This was Ana the man. Never aloof. Always friendly.

No doubt we’ll miss him. His constant foray into the Features Section from the News Section, his subtle humour as he passes by our desks... the ‘lunch train’ headed by him with Dehini, Gaya and Fahriya as they go down to the canteen for their lunch. ... Yes we have lost him.... He was a rock .... There’ll never be another Ana......

Mahes Perera

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We were fortunate to have you

The Sunday Observer was fortunate to have Ana, a veteran at Lake House. He knew the ins and outs of the institution and how to get any job done quicker than it would often take. A quick call from Ana to the relevant department would sort any issues faced by us journalists.

He was helpful to newcomers and would go out of his way to be of assistance to anyone. Ana was a hard worker and spent six days a week in the office. He would often relate stories of the yesteryears at Lake House. A stickler for deadlines he would proudly recall how he refused to make changes in the newspaper as requested by a Chairman long ago as the deadline had already passed. He would also often share stories about his hometown Trincomalee with me as he knew my fondness for the seaside town.

My deskmate for nearly two years you will be truly missed! I pray you have now found the rest which evaded you in this life!

Maneshka Borham

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Ana, the mother hen

‘A new broom sweeps clean but an old broom knows where the dirt is’ aptly describes Ana, who I met on my first day at Lake House in 2005.

Ana had an eye for both mistakes and details and was able to turn out a clean copy in next to no time Young subs and scribes under his tutelage were guided and groomed with paternal care. In times of turbulence he would guard them as the hen gathers its chicks under its wings during adversity.

Subbing was his forte while loyalty and commitment accompanied him into the twilight of his career. One would always see him either glued to a copy or flipping pages or proofs putting the finishing touches which always was with a touch of class.

Generosity and kindness were hallmarks of a larger than life personality both on and off the pitch. He went the extra mile to help those in need and was a Good Samaritan to many. He would go himself to handover leave forms and petty cash slips of his colleagues to keep things going and make everyone happy.

He was full of humour and found time to spend some light moments with the staff. He had a gentle smile on his face and never failed to put a smile on others even while passing by. Being energetic and dynamic he would never hesitate to go down to pass the paper even at mid night after a hard day’s work. He departed imparting a great deal of knowledge and lessons that cannot be acquired from books.

‘Good friends are like stars. You don’t always see them but you know they’re always there’.

Lalin Fernandopulle

******

Dear Ana,

Did you know that we changed the office interior two weeks ago? We did. It looks spacious now. I’m sure you’d love it. Dharisha made sure you have your desk in the best place. It’s right in front of the door. I thought that was a terrific idea - coming into office every morning to be greeted by you was our goal!

Every time I walked in through that door, since I joined a few months ago, you would stop what you were doing and say “Good morning, my dear”. That meant everything to me. You were the ‘most welcoming person’ at Lake House.

I was looking forward for that “Good morning, my dear” again. But, it was not meant to be. You are gone.

I will miss our late Saturday night chats. I wish I had the opportunity to say “Thank you for being you”.

Good bye my dear Ana!

Aanya Wipulasena

******

Good bye Ana till will meet again!

Humble, reliable, kind and concerned were his qualities. His contagious laughter was spiced with wit. Gallantry was his forte. He was the perfect gentleman who treated female colleagues with respect. A journalist par excellence with decades of experience he was a beacon of light and a tower of refuge to all at the Sunday Observer.

It was in 2000 that I met him, as a reporter attached to The Observer. The handful of staff at The Observer used to burn the midnight oil almost daily. If we could rely on one person to be always there, making sure that everything went smoothly, it was Ana who was the News Editor and Chief Sub Editor of the Sunday Observer and The Observer.

He was of the rare breed of professionals who wanted to see the younger generations succeed and do better. His praise was generous, public and loud; his chastening gentle and private almost all the time; and both done in honesty. Belonging to the old school of journalists; he had eye for detail, precision and economy for words. His headline was the much sought after stroke that perfected the picture many a reporter painted.

He was the confidante of all at Lake House. When he inquired after you, it was never for curiosity, gossip or to carry the tale for his own benefit. Genuinely interested in people he went out of his way to help and made life easy for others. His response to adversity was a shrug and a smile. Seldom did he lose his temper.

Ana was one constant at an entirely changed work environment when I rejoined the Sunday Observer in 2017, after an absence of 11 years.

Age as well as responsibility had made him kinder and humbler. He was the same gallant, cheerful, stalwart person – always opening a door or drawing a chair for you; readily arranging transport for us after a late work day, taking the requisitions downstairs himself if needed.

It is impossible to think of the Sunday Observer Editorial without Ana. We miss you, and our hearts cry out at our loss, but we take comfort in the thought that life goes beyond the grave and you are resting in peace. Farewell, dear friend, God be with you till we meet again!

Vimukthi Fernando

******

Thank you and goodbye, Ana!

Though I knew Ana only for a short space of time, I consider myself blessed and privileged to have had him as a mentor. He was there at all times to guide, counsel, correct, encourage and comfort. It made me feel safe and secure just to know that he was there to run to with problems or just to talk and relieve stress.

Ana belonged to a breed of men who are fast becoming extinct in this world - he was a thorough gentleman. Integrity was his middle name. Courteous, chivalrous, kind and considerate to a fault, he always went out of his way to help. Not only would he help, he would follow up to see that things were now alright.

He was also a humble man who never threw his weight around because of his position. He would seek out his subordinates and fellow workers rather than trouble them by letting them come to him. He must have clocked up thousands of miles walking all over this sprawling building with its maze of corridors. In fact, my first memory of him is of a tall man clutching a sheaf of papers hurrying down the corridor and who promptly turned and came back at Sharon’s call.

The Sunday Observer was his life’s passion. Editor Dharisha Bastians once said “Ana is the backbone of this paper.” Never was a truer word said. Ana as a person and his commitment and sacrifices for the paper is well known through the length and breadth of Lake House. Since his passing away, be it in the canteen, corridors, welfare shop and even in the ladies’ washrooms I have been hearing people talk mostly about Ana – all recalling his good qualities and regretting his loss.

Ana also believed in calling a spade a spade and for all his gentleness never hesitated to crack the whip when necessary. His eagle eyes never missed anything, not even a comma or full stop or a space between words. He always pointed out my mistakes and took the trouble to correct them. If a mistake recurred, he would be down on you in a flash. We found out by accident that we had lived in the same outstation town (many years apart though) and had some mutual acquaintances. When he had some free time he would tell me about how life there was.

Knowing Ana even for a short while has enriched my life. Memories of him will always be shining lights in my life. I will always remember him with gratitude.

Thank you Ana and may you rest in peace.

Nira Diaz

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My tribute to Ana

No words would suffice to express my sorrow at the loss of our dear colleague Ana, who was the live wire of the Sunday Observer.

He was a dear, close and fatherly friend who was there at moments of need and helpful all the way. He never turned us down whenever we needed help. We will miss him always and will cherish his memory. May he attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana!

Gaya Deegodage

******

Irreplaceable, that’s what you are

If there was one person who could never be replaced at the Sunday Observer Editorial that would be our late Associate Editor Mr. Sabarathnam Anandakumar.

Ana (as we called him) was very kind hearted, friendly and helpful to one and all. His old school punctuality and duty consciousness was a breath of fresh air, to a place with tight deadlines and chaos specially on a Saturday. A fatherly figure, his demise leaves an empty space in our lives which could never be replaced. We will remember and miss you, Ana.

May you attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana!

Fahriya Akram 

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