A scholarly professional and quintessential Jaffna man
via Sunday Times (1/10/21)
Brahman died peacefully on December 28, in Fairfax, Virginia. He had just celebrated his 84th birthday one week earlier. He and his three children were fortunate to see each other before he passed.
He was predeceased by his loyal and beloved wife Vijayalakshmi and he is survived by his two loving daughters and son, Narayani, Dharshana and Sanjeevan, his daughter-in-law Maya and also his brother and sister, Dr. Pratab Sivaprakasapillai and Dr. Premala Sivasegaram. In addition, he was a very involved grandfather to his three grandchildren, Neel, Vaishnavi, and Nitish.
He was born on December 16, 1936 in Colombo to late Professor Thambyahapillai and Leelamani Sivaprakasapillai. Brahman entered Royal College in 1947 and achieved a remarkable academic and professional record from here. He was admitted to the Faculty of Engineering, University of Sri Lanka and obtained a First Class Honours degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1959. He proceeded to the United Kingdom where he undertook postgraduate research in Aeronautics and earned his PhD from Imperial College, London in 1964. He stayed on in the U.K. to serve as a Research Engineer at the National Engineering Laboratory, East Kilbrid, until 1968.
He returned to Sri Lanka and joined the State Engineering Corporation where he was actively involved in with national research and development. He was known in Sri Lanka for his design and manufacture of pumps and dredger. In 1978, he joined the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)) in Geneva in 1978 and he served very closely with the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Subsequent to this appointment, Brahman and his family relocated to New York where he joined the United Nations and later did engineering consultation.
Brahman is my elder first cousin, our fathers were brothers. I remember fondly how we would regularly meet to celebrate birthdays. After each get-together I would return home and my mother would give me a hard time saying that Brahman is a model son and student and why couldn’t I be like him. Brahman’s classmates also looked up to him. One of his Royal College friends, Gnanam Supramaniam, recollects, “Whenever a teacher posed a question to the class on any subject, the whole class would turn round and look at Brahman. Brahman’s hand would surely be up. He had the ready answer.”
When Brahman moved to New York, our families became even closer. Brahman, myself, and eight other families from Sri Lanka created what we dubbed the “Thanksgiving Group”. This group became our U.S. family and we celebrated Thanksgivings, Christmases, and New Years together for over 30+ years.
All of us were in awe of his self-confidence and the breadth of his knowledge in a variety of fields – politics, history, literature, music, science, religion, and languages. He became an avid New York Yankees fan and could talk for hours with friends about baseball.
One interesting anecdote that makes many of us laugh is when Brahman was elected President of the Sri Lanka Association of New York. He addressed his committee members with this, “I will communicate with you through email. If it is urgent and I need to call you, I will call collect, being a Jaffna man.”
May his soul rest in peace. We will miss him.
Dr. Sanath Nallainathan