sri express

During a casual pow-wow with a friend, over a glass of wine, last week we discussed the fate of modern children, the denial of their childhood and turning them into robots by anxious parents who realise very little about the psychological damage they inflict on their offspring.

How poignant it is to see schoolchildren clad in immaculate white uniforms come on to the roads as early as 7 am these days. Parents of most of these children place implicit faith on school vans and busses when it comes to transport of these kids, but many drivers seem to behave like maniacs sitting behind a steering wheel without paying any attention to the responsibility they shoulder when young lives are in their hands.

My friend attended St. Sebastian's College whereas I went to Prince of Wales College in Moratuwa (until I went abroad).

Although the two colleges were rivals when it came to cricket, our friendship has lasted up to this day. During our recent reminiscence on college-day experiences we compared notes with that of the present day kids who have no leisure time at all except going to school in the morning , returning home, doing a quick turn-around, run for tuition classes and arrive home late completely exhausted mentally and physically.

Shaggy dog stories

My friend burst into hilarity with some of the anecdotes I dug out from my Cambrian memories (PWC was known as Cambrians) and suggested that I should incorporate those in my column stating it would appeal to many readers as light reading. Following personal experiences bear no offence to anyone.

One of the most interesting personalities at PWC was our art teacher - nick named 'Pacha Maatia' (Bless his soul)! Four ft 8 inches tall, wearing dark glasses, clad in a full white suit, collar and tie, riding a 22" bike was itself an eye catcher as he had to push one pedal of the bicycle and wait for the other one to come up as he was too short. Known as the CID at PWC, he was a character by himself and was notorious for yarns.

Students who wanted to evade the drawing period used to induce him to narrate an 'experience from his hunting episodes' about which he always bragged. Although his shaggy dog stories were beyond any fairy-tale, we only had one aim - to skip the ‘drawing period’.
Beginning every story with the phrase, "Putha", he admitted he was notorious for being late for anything.

Once he had been asked by a group of his friends to be ready sharp at 6 pm to be picked up to go with them by car to a birthday party.

"Jim, (pseudo name) make sure you are ready on time , and not and  if you are late, good luck to you', the friend had warned him.

"Putha, time was already 5.59 and the guys arrived on time and rang the doorbell, I was ready except having to comb my hair. As three of them forced into my room I rushed  and combed  my hair, but in my second thoughts  decided to have a glance at the mirror, Lord and behold! Would you believe, Putha, I had been combing my friend's hair who was standing next to me", he said to a roar of laughter from the boys

Sympathetic  Latin Master.

Always in a white or Gabardine suit, collar and tie, our Latin teacher  entered the classroom with half a bottle of arrack concealed in his coat pocket. Once a cheeky student, who happened to be a grandchild of the Founder of PWC who sat in the front row covered his nose with a handkerchief and yelled "Appa....... Ganda"! (Oh gosh the stench). That tickled some of the students who could not control their laughter.

Infuriated master reached a student and demanded to know why he was sniggering at. In a jiffy his right fist went intosome form of  piston action on the student's upper arm area while in a chorus the rest of the class echoed 'Ara...!.Ara....!! Ara...!!!". Hopping mad, the teacher went from one giggling student to another continuing his ‘piston action’  which made the whole class echo the phrase   “Ara... Ara... Ara..... ' like repeating a mantra in a rhythmic fashion. Helpless Latin teacher was thereafter nicknamed from that moment onwards as 'Mr. Ara Dasa".

Kindness beyond borders

'Mr. Ara Dasa' had a compassionate heart  despite his occasional temperamental outbursts especially when students could not remember how to conjugate Latin verbs. Once prior to a ‘final term test’ (Promotion test) one boy was made a scapegoat to approach the Latin master pretending to be in a sombre mood.

Quite startled by the boy's sniffing, the teacher enquired:

"Why son, what is upsetting you Putha"?

Wiping off his crocodile tears the student answered

"Sir, I don’t think I will pass  in my Latin at the final exam ;  my father will not spare me if I did not get pass marks; if that happens Sir, and I will run away from home…………………!"

Quite alarmed and overcome by emotion, the master whispered in boy's ear:

"OK son, calm down, there's no need to panic or take such hasty decisions, I will help you out, but one thing you ought to do is to keep this under your hat",  and handed over a copy of the question paper to the student in advance.

Within minutes the whole class knew what to expect at the examination - needless to say everyone got through Latin with a credit pass or with  a ‘distinction’.

Unlike  the type degrading ragging what has become an indecorous practice  in Sri Lankan universities at present, it was all a case of innocent and clean fun during our time at college that emerged as bubbling spirit of a group of adolescents.

*  *  *  *  *  *

Our particular unit of students  became perverse to such an extent that the whole class was shifted to number of  different classrooms during one semester being incorrigible;  twice fined Rs.10  per student (on  each occasion) for the obtuse action deemed injurious to the welfare or morals  or the interest of the College and its reputation which in my mind has entered the  the PWC book of records as the only major ' crime' the boys in our class ever did, for fun !

Interesting and rib tickling episodes will appear in a continuation from next week onwards.

Serialised in the Daily News in 2012

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