The correspondent

1 montage | 6 audio

Former parliamentarian and retired principal of Methodist Central, Prince Casinader is also a correspondent. He talks about his love for the singing fish of Batticaloa and the conflict between Muslim and Tamil communities. Photography by Kannan Arunasalam. Singing fish recording courtesy of the Science Navigators.

Join the discussion: 5 comments

  • Kannan Arunasalam says:

    Having met Prince Casinader several times over the last few months, I’ve learned that there are two things that he doesn’t forgive too easily – mispronouncing his name or being late for an appointment. I had arrived early for our first meeting, but had messed up by getting his name wrong and Mr Casinader chastised me for it. But behind his sometimes stern face – Mr Casinader’s sense of discipline at Methodist Central College in Batticaloa where he served as principal is legendary among his students – was an overwhelming gentleness.

    An emotional man in his eighties, his eyes often welled up with tears as we talked about his wife who died shortly after the tsunami, heartbroken after seeing the damage to their Dutch Bar cottage, or when I handed him copies of photographs I had taken on my visits. These days, ill health has meant that Mr Casinader rarely leaves his ancestral home, now crumbling but charming and filled with memories on the walls and the tables. Forced to sell the property to pay for his heart surgery, a Batticaloan boy had bought it from him only to give his former teacher the right to live in the house until his death.

    Inside, Mr Casinader’s cherished blue typewriter sat on his desk. It was something he said he couldn’t live without, vital for his work as the Batticaloan correspondent for Lake House and as a protector of human rights. He typed only with the index fingers of each hand, a look of determination on his face, to finish a piece or writing for the newspaper or a report on a matter of social justice.

    But in recent years the topic that Mr Casinader is most enthusiastic about and the very first thing he spoke about as soon as the tape started rolling was a story that took you across to other side of town and into the depths of the Batticaloa lagoon. Batticaloa is known as the Land of the Singing Fish, but Mr Casinader felt that many Batticaloans had forgotten about their importance as a cultural icon. Lately it seemed Prince Casinader’s mission through both his writings and in the speeches that he gave at school prize givings or other local events was to draw people’s attention to this unique attraction, something he had become so enamored with.

    Over the years, Prince Casinader had guided many visitors to Batticaloa to capture the sounds, including journalists from Radio Ceylon and Japanese scientists keen to take a recording back with them. Having failed to get a recording from Radio Ceylon’s archives, I had given up hope of ever hearing the unusual sounds – described by others as “the sweetest treble mingling with the lowest bass” and “the twanging in thirds of the G string on the violin”. Then last week to my utter joy I discovered that an enterprising group of Batticaloans, former students of Prince Casinader, had recorded the sounds of the singing fish on a full moon night. With their permission, I have included the sound of the singing fish on Mr Casinader’s I Am portrait, in what I hope will be a fitting tribute to a greatly admired educator, parliamentarian and correspondent.

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  • (@iam_project) (@iam_project) says:

    Listen to a special recording of the singing fish of Batticaloa, made possible by the work of the Science Navigators http://t.co/G84d6EDW

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  • Lanka Solidarity (@lankasol) says:

    RT @Apelankawe: The correspondent | i am http://t.co/M56914Un via @iam_project

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  • (@groundviews) (@groundviews) says:

    RT @Apelankawe: The correspondent | i am http://t.co/M56914Un via @iam_project

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  • Kannan Arunasalam says:

    Listen to Prince Casinader in an ode to Batticaloa’s watery wonder in our radio documentary for BBC Radio 4, ‘The Singing Fish of Batticaloa’. Produced by Cicely Fell and Kannan Arunasalam http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04bn086

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