May the turf lay soft over his good soul | Sunday Observer
Tribute - Veteran journalist Ravi Ladduwahetty

May the turf lay soft over his good soul

18 September, 2022

Veteran journalist Ravi Ladduwahetty, who went on his last journey yesterday, was a legend in journalism circles in his own lifetime. At just 65, his death was untimely and unexpected, but he was ailing for some time.

Ravi, an old Trinitian, was a journalist par excellence who never aspired to become the Chief Editor of any of the newspapers he worked for, though he was clearly Editor material. But he did hold several important positions in his illustrious journalism career which started at The Island in 1995. His journey to journalistic stardom was simply unstoppable.

Although Ravi began his journey from The Island, it was Lake House that had a special place in his heart. Ravi worked for the Daily News and the Sunday Observer for several years and in fact, at the time of his death, was freelancing for the Sunday Observer.

At the Daily News, Ravi specialised in business and general news reporting and also contributed news and feature articles to the Sunday Observer. Ravi played an indispensable role at the Daily News, or CDN as the old timers still call it, scoring lead stories for both page one and business pages almost every day.

Ravi had a vast pool of contacts in business, politics, the arts, academia and other fields whom he often visited in person to get stories. Some of these were exclusives or “scoops” found in no other newspaper. Ravi did not believe in “telephone journalism” and liked to report from the field. It was during one such reporting trip that Ravi nearly lost his life in a horrendous car crash in Ratnapura. He miraculously survived to tell the tale and returned to work almost immediately after his discharge from hospital. Remarkably, he had no grudge against the driver of the vehicle and went with him on an outstation trip just a few months later. This was another trait of Ravi – he had no ill will towards anyone and was a friend to all.

Ravi was the journalist that news editors and editors relied on to get a solid lead story. Once, the Daily News got a story on a Government project, but the nature of the project was such that we could get confirmation only from the Secretary of the President. The news editor tried to get him several times but did not succeed, probably because he was out of town and cellular signals were in any case patchy back then.

We were at our wit’s end, wondering how to get the story, which was certain to be an exclusive. Just then, Ravi walked in after completing an assignment. One of us wondered aloud “wish we could ask the President”. Ravi heard this remark and asked “why not?” We were astonished, because none of us had the President’s personal or home number. Ravi came back to the newsroom after answering a quick call of nature and dialled the number from memory.

Ravi put the speakerphone on, an aide came to the phone, and Ravi explained who he was. The aide asked him to hold on and a few minutes later, the President came to the line and gave the entire story to Ravi. We were simply flabbergasted. Ravi had once again done the impossible. Needless to say, it was the lead story in the next day’s paper, under Ravi’s byline. Throughout his career, Ravi would have easily scored over 1,000 page one lead stories for all the newspapers he worked for.

Ravi loved to see his byline and once had the rare fortune of having a story or feature on practically every page of the Daily News, including the sports page. Ravi read widely and had a phenomenal memory which helped him in his journalistic pursuits. Ravi especially loved cricket and rugby and wrote about both. His last contribution to the Daily News was a full-page column on international rugby, just a few months ago.

Following his exit from the Daily News, he joined the Daily Mirror as a news, business and feature writer. Later, he joined The Nation. After leaving The Nation, he joined Ceylon Today. He then came back to the Daily News, where he worked for a couple more years in a full-time capacity. Thus Ravi had the distinction of having worked for almost all the English dailies and weeklies published in Sri Lanka. Only a very few other journalists have emulated this feat.

Following his retirement from full-time journalism due to illness, he continued writing news and features to the Daily News, which was very close to his heart. He was a very versatile journalist with a wide repertoire, with a remarkable ability to write impeccable copies on almost any topic. He could produce stories at the drop of a proverbial hat, which was a godsend to harried news editors.

Ravi was a treasure trove of knowledge on any local or global contemporary topic and young journalists looked up to him for inspiration and guidance. Ravi was a livewire of all the newsrooms he worked for and never failed to crack a joke or two even amidst the pressure of deadlines. His colleagues sometimes played pranks on him but Ravi took it all in his stride.

He enlivened office parties and outings with his pithy remarks and non-stop banter. He had several unique expressions in both Sinhala and English that always invoked laughter among his colleagues. Ravi would often say that these are “trademarked” expressions and words found nowhere in the dictionary. He was never a clock watcher and sometimes went home only after 2 a.m., having worked from 9 a.m.

The journalist in Ravi never left even amidst serious illness and he produced comprehensive news copies for the Daily News and the Sunday Observer on a regular basis. Even from his sick bed, Ravi regularly called his best friends and colleagues to discuss contemporary events and to give tips on stories. Ravi has left an indelible impact on local English journalism. His loss leaves a void in English journalism that is very hard to fill.