S M Kamaldeen

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ALHAJ S.M. Kamaldeen – My father – a man of few Words
Aug 2008 – sent in by Mo Qamardeen from New Hampshire, USA

My father, S.M. Kamaldeen, passed away on August 15, 2008. Until his death in August, he had lived a full life: provided for his family, achieved success in his career, volunteered his services to social causes and saw the world. As I write this memorial to my father from my home in the United States of America, very recent words spoken to me by a relative praising my father over the telephone, resonates in my mind. However, his primary trait was described in just a smattering of words- that my father was a man of few words. My father, who was always in the habit of giving others more so than he ever received, wasn’t inclined to wasting too many words to highlight his accomplishments. Being the bearer of my father’s legacy to the world, I feel it is my duty to reflect on his contributions to the society that he lived in and recall highlights of his long and illustrious life.

My father who was born in 1922, attended elementary school at St. Mary’s College, Chilaw, a town where his family from India had settled in British colonial Ceylon. He pursued his secondary education at Zahira College, Colombo, where he was exposed to the intellect of many of the Sri Lankan Muslim leaders of the day. My father completed his high school education at Jaffna College, Vaddukoddai, which was a pioneer institution of higher Western learning in the East run by the American Ceylon Mission, during his day. Following his education in Jaffna, my father attended the University of Ceylon where he acquired a Bachelor of Arts degree and a diploma in Librarianship. When my father married my mother, Haleema (Marikar), a graduate student at the University of Toronto, Canada, he used that opportunity to travel to North America and completed a degree in Education from the same University.

In 1948, my father began his career in education as a member of the tutorial staff, at his alma-mater Zahira College, in Colombo. He entered the field of librarianship in 1954, serving as Deputy Librarian at the Colombo Municipal Public Library. In 1973, while employed at the Public Library, he won a UNESCO Fellowship to attend a study tour of Libraries in Australia. My father joined the Sri Lanka National Library Services Board in 1975, and served as a Director of the Board, until his retirement in 1981. During his employment with the Board, UNESCO sponsored his overseas trip to an IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) conference on Public Library Buildings, in Bremen, West Germany. After his retirement, my father continued to be very involved in the development of library education in Sri Lanka and served as the President of the Sri Lanka Library Association.

I can remember numerous instances, where my father volunteered his services to helping others. However, two examples where he volunteered showing true heroism and dedication to the well-being of his fellow-citizens of the World come to mind. In 1978, he volunteered in a search and rescue mission following an international aviation disaster involving a Loftleidir Icelandic Airways DC-8 aircraft shuttling Indonesian Hajj pilgrim passengers that occurred in Negombo. Another instance in 1979, where my father stepped up to the plate to assist in a much needed relief- cause, was when a cyclone hit the Eastern province of Sri Lanka.

I remember him traveling to the affected areas in Eastern Sri Lanka shortly after that disaster, to provide the much needed humanitarian assistance there.

My father was responsible for instilling the love of books in me. As a child, he inspired me to read more than just comic books and learn about the World beyond the shores of Sri Lanka. In 1976, when the Non-Aligned Nations conference was held in Colombo, my father insisted and arranged for him and I to catch a glimpse of the international attendees as World history was being made. My love for international relations was born when from a front row seat my father and I waved to the motorcades of Indira Gandhi, Anwar Sadat, Marshal Tito and Colonel Muhammar Gadaffi, that drove past us to the BMICH. I would not have experienced this once in a life-time opportunity, if not for the influences yielded upon me by my dad, the internationally conscious citizen.

In summing up my father’s long and illustrious life, it is necessary to re-state that he did not want to talk much about himself. However, from the examples above, my father’s actions in life spoke louder than words. The meaning of his life was tied to promoting the path to knowledge thru books, and he dedicated his service to mankind thru volunteerism. I take great pride in the legacy of the kind of man my father lived his life to be. An idiom from William Shakespeare’s King Henry the Fifth best describes my father’s essence, “Men of few words are the best men.”

ALHAJ S.M. Kamaldeen (retired Assistant Chief Librarian, Colombo Public Library and former Director of the Sri Lanka National Library Services Board) beloved husband of Haleema Hanem, loving father of Qamarudeen (U.S.A.), Father in law of Sharon (U.S.A), Grandfather of Anna (U.S.A.), passed away. Janaza and burial took place on Saturday, August 16, 2008, at Wattakkiliya Muslim Burial Grounds, Chilaw.

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