Pioneer woman-journalist Roshan Peiris departs


May 25, 2008

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Roshan’s typewriter ticks no more

Hers was a familiar ‘byline’ to many generations of readers. Veteran journalist Roshan Peiris, a stalwart of The Observer and in later years of The Sunday Times who passed away on Tuesday had many scoops and ‘exclusives’ with leading political figures and celebrities to her credit.

Fondly remembered by her friends and colleagues on the newspaper for her indefatigable enthusiasm and dedication to her work, she was one of the old school who always met her deadlines. A warm and vibrant personality, Roshan was a ‘senior’ at The Sunday Times to whom many turned for her wide experience and wise counsel.

She worked for most of the 1990s at The Sunday Times until failing health saw her regretfully move away from her beloved typewriter. We say a sad ‘goodbye’ to a grand lady of journalism whom we were privileged to know. Published here is a tribute to Roshan by a friend and fellow Lake House colleague of yore Rajitha Weerakoon and one of Roshan’s articles from The Sunday Times archives, about one of the many VVIPs she knew intimately during her professional career.

Roshan Peiris, a pioneer woman-journalist, departed from us last week. She was amongst a handful of women-journalists of the so called “Golden Age” of Lake House in the early 1950s who braved the citadel to work with the impregnable bastion of male journalists such as Tarzie Vittachchi, Denzil Peiris and Mervyn De Silva. It was a difficult task but Roshan, just as the rest of the determined and committed women-journalists at the time such as Ranji Handy, Jean Pinto, Vijitha Fernando, Malini Balasingham, Sumana Saparamadu, Hema Gunawardene and Mallika Wanigasundera, took them on and set trends of the highest order.
Then Secretary of th Editors’ Guild of Sri Lanka and current chairman of Lake House Bandula Padma Kumara placing the gold medal on Roshan Peiris at the Guild’s Awards ceremony

Hailing from a distinguised Parsee family – the Dadabhoys which had famous physicians and businessmen, Roshan, with a degree from the University of Ceylon joined Lake House in 1953 and took to journalsim like duck to water. She was a feature-writer and Women’s Page Editress of the Observer when she married the legendary Observer Editor Denzil Peiris who was at the time editing the Janatha, the Silumina and Jana – an international Lake House magazine.

They had two children – Suren who is an Attorney-at-Law today and Savithri whose death Roshan refused to accept till the time of her death.

Roshan wrote on a range of topics – politics, arts, fashions, health, human interest stories as well as colour pieces on special events. She rose to be the Features Editor and later even acted for the Editor of the Sunday Observer in the mid 1970s, an opportunity which perhaps did not come in the way of other women-journalists at the time. Her career spanned for over four decades and Roshan was the pick when Sirimavo Bandaranaike wanted to ‘grant’ an interview to a journalist. Roshan interviewed at least two Prime Ministers of India including Indira Gandhi and many, many other international VVIPs.

Roshan was also awarded a medal for long service in journalism at the 2001 Editors’ Guild Awards Ceremony. She spent her last years of journalism at The Sunday Times. If not for her poor health and the mental trauma of losing her daughter Roshan would have certainly continued with her writing right to the end.

Original article here.