Remembering  Dr. D.V. J.Harischandra (11 March 1938  – 1 March 2013)
Posted on March 3rd, 2016

Dr Ruwan M. Jayatunge

I first met Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr. D. V. J Harischandra, in 1998, when he came to deliver a presentation on Euthanasia at the Brown’s Beach Hotel in Negombo that was organized by the Clinical Society of the Negombo Hospital. On that day he gave an outstanding presentation on Euthanasia and Medical Ethics and captured everyone’s attention with his knowledge and language skills. He was a superb orator.

Dr. Harischandra was an excellent media presenter and he had the exceptional ability of presenting deep concepts of psychology and psychiatry to the general public in simplistic manner. He was an admirable teacher and an instructor. Trained as a Psychiatrist, he served in a number of hospitals, treating a large number of patients. He was a friendly and a gentle specialist who observed the professionals ethics at all times.

He had a profound knowledge of Psychiatry, Psychology, Sociology and Philosophy. It was a rare combination. He was not a traditional doctor with limited specialty. He could eloquently speak of many subjects and I always considered Dr. Harischandra as a walking encyclopaedia. He never gave up reading and exploration. He was open to new subjects and never became a slave to any dogma. Until his death, Dr. DVJ actively engaged in the process of accumulation of knowledge.

Dr. Harischandra used different strategies to treat his patients. Although he was trained in England Dr. DVJ never forgot the traditional healing methods that brought holistic approach. He strongly believed in the impact of culture in the healing process. He did incorporate psychodrama to treat his patients. In 2002 he invited me to visit his clinic in Galle where he used numerous successful psychotherapies. He was an excellent and a gifted counselor who knew Rogerian Therapy from A to Z. He offered empathy and treated his patients in a nonjudgmental atmosphere. I had never met a Psychiatrist who had a deep knowledge in Psychoanalysis as Dr. Harischandra.

He knew the works of Freud, Jung, Alfred Adler, Melanie Klein and Eric Fromm like the back of his hand.

The leading Psychiatric also took a special interest to study the Buddhist Jathaka stories. He knew that the Jataka stories deeply analyzed the human mind and it contained a profound universal humanistic philosophy. In his famous book “Psychiatric Aspects of Jataka Stories”, Dr. Harishandra pointed out that the Western Psychologists Psychiatrists should carefully study this ancient DSM which is a priceless piece of work.

He adored the work of Munidasa Cumaratunga – the great Sri Lankan linguist and a writer who had a reflective knowledge of the Sinhala language. He believed that Cumaratunga had similar views on language like Jacques Derrida who introduced the theory of Deconstruction. He knew that Cumaratunga and Derrida were two different people who lived in different academic eras, but they shared something common.

He highlighted the major child psychology concepts that were used by Cumaratunga in his works. According to Dr. Harischandra, Cumaratunga used linguistic scaffolding in the language acquisition period to help children to grasp language skills.

Dr. Harischandra realised the psychological impact of the war in Sri Lanka first hand and encouraged me to study combat Psychology. Once on a TV program he quoted a few lines from one of my books that recounted Combat Trauma in Sri Lanka. He knew the psychological repercussions of the armed conflict and how it affected mental health. He had treated a large number of war victims. In addition, during the Asian Tsunami in 2004, he rendered an invaluable service to Tsunami victims.

Our last meeting was in 2007 at the 3rd International Conference of South Asian Federation of Psychiatric Associations that was held at the Tangerine Hotel, Kalutara. After that, we intermittently exchanged views via telephone. When I asked for his email Dr.Harischandra replied: I am an old fashion guy and I don’t have an email. He honestly admitted that he was little far behind computer technology.

But I have no doubt that Dr. Harischandra was conversant with it.He was a genius and a quick learner.

Before I conclude, I ought to mention some of the extraordinary human qualities of Dr. Harischandra. He did not walk with a big ego and a chip on his shoulder. He possessed no professional jealousy and he never treated the junior doctors with sarcasm. He had an open mind to admire the knowledge and skills of his junior doctors. He was a true professional until his last day.

Dr Ruwan M. Jayatunge

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