Navam Appadurai (1920-1983), born in Jaffna, Sri Lanka to teachers at Jaffna College, was the fourth of eight children. He was orphaned at age twelve. However, to keep the eight children together, the college allowed them to continue living on site. The siblings made a pact that the oldest would each be individually responsible for the education of a younger sibling. Because of that promise, Navam turned down a scholarship to study medicine abroad and instead turned to teaching while completing his Bachelor’s degree, so that he could contribute financially. Upon graduation he went into government service, married Rubina Hensman in 1948, and then entered the Department of Social Services. This early work with marginalised people in various parts of Sri Lanka sparked his life-long passion for social justice.
Navam first came in contact with SCI in the early 1960s when he was stationed in Anuradhapura, meeting Devinder Das Chopra and in the course of organising a joint work camp with the Department of Social Service and SCI. Navam became one of the founder members of SCI Sri Lanka and attended work camps in India and Central Asia. In 1968 Navam took early retirement from government service, and became the Asian Secretary, running the office from Colombo until he could move his family to Singapore in 1970. However in 1972 the Singapore government raised objections to SCI’s pacifist stance, so they had to return to Colombo. He retired in 1978.
Navam continued working in the field, and was working on a paper for the Marga Research Institute, a think tank, about the escalating tensions between the Tamils and Singhalese when he died of a heart attack. Just two weeks after his death, widescale rioting and civil strife engulfed Sri Lanka. He is survived by his widow, Rubina and four daughters Suhendrini, Shirani, Arulini and Lilani.