Sinhala Grammar and Bisection
I am thankful to those old Cambrians, Sebastianites, one Thora and a Rajan, who responded to the series with some of their own experiences which go to show youthful fun we shared, as much as the quality of the teaching staff we were privileged to learn from during our era, are being rekindled. E-mail interaction, in this respect, certainly goes to show how the series has managed to hoist a different kind of dormant 'Kundalini' among old Cambrians!
The dedicated members of staff at the PWC did not concentrate blindly on a syllabus alone, but their dedication extended towards inculcating morals, ethics and values in pupils' future lives which helped to transform many boys in Khaki shorts to men of the world.
This fact has been reinforced in one of the emails as follows: "Talking of men of value, PWC has produced many men of the world especially Senior Police officers at home who have earned people but not wealth"!
Some old Cambrians while paying tribute to their favourite teachers had come up with few names such as Messrs. A.P.M Peiris, Tilan Perera, Eric Perera, Oliver Martin, Tissa Gunawardena, Godahewa, Chandrasoma Rajapaksa, Santhanam, Miss. Israel, Oliver Martin, Wijemanne, Norbert Dias, Mrs. Lakshmi ( Wijesekera) Perera, Mrs. Indrani Peiris, Mrs. Pastsy Fernando, Mrs. Greata de Mel, Ms. Kanakasundaram, the late Mrs. Senaratne and Mrs. Uluwita. This should not leave room for any misunderstanding about the missing names of other erudite teachers of a by-gone era.
The late Mr. A.P.M. Peiris had a personal interest in my studies when he was the Headmaster, perhaps because of my family connections. I had private English tuition lessons from him when he was the editor of the PWC magazine - The Cambrian - and he made me sit and write an article to the magazine during a tuition session, which he edited and published late under the heading ‘ My village’.
'APM' visited middle school classes after every fortnightly test to monitor student performances and warned students who failed to achieve set standards. Once, my position went down from first to the second, and he spared no time in giving me a severe warning with a remark, "Pull up your socks next time". Fortnight later I had descended to the third position, consequently I was subjected to a caning session on my buttocks with a few others.
As much as engaging in fun and a trace of boisterousness, on and off, we collectively respected all our teachers in a mixture of discipline and exuberance. Similar to students, we did have an assortment of teachers too of diverse personality with a mixture of excitement, amusement, discipline and diplomacy barring the odd one or two who always pretended to be serious.
Grammar and bisection
The following story I picked up from a feedback which relates to an experience of one of our excellent teachers who taught us Sinhalese during a grammar lesson.
The Master had been interrupted by a student halfway through, before he completed a written sentence on the blackboard which read as:
"Aayathanya Pihita aththey" ........... (The Institution is situated at ...................)
The cheeky student bisected the first word Ayathanaya (Institution) into two sections which read as 'Aya Thanaya' (Servant Woman's breasts) and queried the teacher thus:
"Excuse me Sir, Aya ........Thanaya ..........Pihita........ Athey .....Koheda?" (Where would Aya's breasts be)?
There was a roar of laughter inside the classroom, but the teacher turned a Nelsonian eye to impudent behaviour and remained as cool as a cucumber and quipped "Eka nam ahanna owne Ayagen thami" (That of course you need to ask Aya) and continued with his lesson as if nothing had happened.
As I was writing this column, I received some email pictures from my nephew that had appeared in the 'Gossip Lanka.com' website under the caption "Happy Old Boys day at Prince of Wales College' with an appropriate comment: "You are not to be seen anywhere"! Of course not, even I could not recognise any of the faces there after a long spell of about four decades being away from the country, but one of the old Cambrian names what Merrill mentioned (as Clinton) in the pictures took me straightway back to an interesting episode.
It was during Sir John Kotelawela's last days of premiership when three boys, Clinton, myself and another student (can't recollect his name) went riding our bicycles from Moratuwa to Sir John's Kandawela Estate at Ratmalana on an excursion. There were no security or bodyguards during that era and Sir John was reading the Evening Observer, lounging on a Hansi Putuwa (easy chair with folding arms), dressed in a pair of shorts and a vest.
Nervously we retracted the moment we set our eyes upon Sri John in the verandah (after all, he was the Prime Minister of the Land and a fearsome one too, as we had heard). Clinton bravely approached Sir John from a side while the PM continued to read the newspaper seriously without taking any notice of us at all.
"Excuse me Sir! Can we please have your permission to wander around in your garden?"
Clinton just managed to complete his sentence in English with courage when Sir John growled, without batting an eye lid and still looking straight into the newspaper:
"Katha Karapia Yako Sinhalen!! Palayaw gihin Balapipyaw....!! Mage Watta Balanna Ka Genwath Avasara Ganna Owne Neha!" (Speak in Sinhala, you rascal! Go.. go ... and enjoy yourselves, there is no need to take permission from anyone to visit my estate).
We parked our bicycles against a mango tree and walked about like beaten dogs in the garden which had a pond, a cabana style cabin surrounded by a canal with a decorative wooden bridge to access. We later learnt that all confidential meeting were held in this cabana which was isolated from outsiders or those who were not welcomed.
Few minutes later, Sir John walked out to the garden where we were and started feeding animals who were wandering about (it was like a mini zoo). We stood next to him as proud as ever, after all it was a significant event to stand next to the Prime Minister of the Land in Sarong and 'Baniyama' (vest) and the one who said 'Call me maama' (uncle).
As I was about to dispatch this episode, Merrill followed his previous email with another one. Alas! it was a different Clinton that I was thinking of - may be a junior one! Hope my friend Clinton reads this...?