Vijay Nagaraj, who passed away in a tragic car accident in August, was someone I interacted with for around six years. We didn’t meet regularly, yet when we did, we carried on talking as if little or no time had passed since our last encounter. We communicated more over email than in person. Vijay was a strong critic of Groundviews. Perhaps the strongest and best the site’s ever had. We argued about editorial bias, content, the photography accompanying some articles and often, the space given to those he felt should not enjoy the oxygen of publicity. Vijay’s arguments were never histrionic, and always framed and underpinned by evidence to support what he thought should be done.
Vijay was also one of the strongest, most sincere supporters of the site – we often talked about sustainability, strengthening the site against attacks and on how the civic media model could be replicated, expanded, sustained beyond donor funding and institutionalised. Vijay was the first to flag when I did something wrong. He was also the first and often only person to write in when the site published what he saw as noteworthy, important, critical content that didn’t and couldn’t go in Sri Lanka’s mainstream media.
Acutely aware of his place as a foreigner, an Indian and in Sri Lanka on a work visa, Vijay’s most critical insights into politics, the economy and other key developments came often from an email address on Gmail (which appeared as Prince Vijaya) he reserved only for sensitive conversations, and most often with a request to delete the email once read, responded to or acted upon.
Some of those emails to me had content he wanted published on Groundviews. Someone very close to Vijay asked me a few days ago to send what I had of communications with him around this content. The exercise took me deep into email archives I hadn’t touched in a very long time, and into the conversations I had with him that I hadn’t deleted.
I found until now no compelling reason to add to everything that has been said of Vijay – of who he was, what he did, how he made others feel and what a loss his untimely passing is to so many individuals, spaces and communities – in Sri Lanka, India and far beyond. The small contribution I can make, through Groundviews, is to pay tribute to what he wrote under his pen names, as Anonymous, and finally, post-war, under his own name. It is a record of writing that would otherwise be lost, and never be attributed to him.
I hope from the better place Vijay’s in, he’ll forgive me for doing this or at least have the patience until I reach him too to debate the merits of this post-mortem exposé, over a fresh arrack. Or two.
As P. Vijaya
- Is Dambulla, Babri Masjid Redux?
- Some Critical Reflections on the Silences on Secularism: A Response to Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge
- Truth and Dialogue as Theatre: Some Reflections on the Frontline Club Panel on Sri Lanka
- On the (Non)sense of Being ‘United’ and/nor/or ‘Unitary’
- The Political Economy of Prejudice: Islam, Muslims and Sinhala-Buddhist Nationalism in Sri Lanka Today: Some Reflections
- Ini Avan: Hauntingly beautiful but…
- A Guide to Colombo for CHOGM 2013
Under his name