22 July, 2017, 12:00 am
The demise of J.S. Kanwal, the former distinguished principal of Khalsa College, Ba, has sent shock waves among his former students, friends and relatives in Fiji and abroad.
I have known Mr Kanwal for many years but more particularly from 1976 when I was appointed the principal of Ba Provincial Secondary School in Tavakubu, Lautoka.
It was my good fortune to have worked with Mr Kanwal in the Fiji Principals Association when he was the president and I, a junior executive member. I learnt a number of educational administrative skills from him and stalwarts like Marjorie Hodge, the former principal of Jasper Williams High School. My own success as a principal has much to do with my association with such stalwarts.
I have known Mr Kanwal to be a towering personality with sweet soft spoken voice. He was very amicable and spoke decisively without mincing his words. He spoke the truth no matter how bitter it was to the listener. Once in the FPA executive meeting he disagreed with the late Dr Ahmad Ali, the then minister for education and held his ground. The minister had no choice but to agree to Mr Kanwal’s point of view. Since that day I had tremendous respect for this man. He could be trusted not to mislead anyone who dealt with him.
Apart from being a brilliant principal, Mr Kanwal was a distinguished Hindi writer. Some of his books are prescribed as texts in our school system. This is no mean achievement. Mr Kanwal’s love for writing, poetry and public speaking was the hallmark of his character. With his well-refined manners and a sense of camaraderie he was an easy person to get along with. In retirement, I kept in touch with him via telephone conversations. His sense of humour and laughter, with plenty of Punjabi flavour was infectious indeed.
Madhwan Raman, a former student of Mr Kanwal, writing to me from Auckland, New Zealand, expressed his grief at the passing of his former principal. Madhwan recalled his days at Khalsa College and his academic success and his subsequent success in employment in government service in Fiji and later as administrator for Housing New Zealand. He credited his success to Mr Kanwal’s motivational commitment and determination to ensure the success of his students.
Mr Kanwal was a rare species. I salute him. My deepest condolences to the family. May his soul rest in peace.