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This episode consists of an incident experienced by a Cambrian  (who now lives in Singapore), while he was in the O/Level class, along with few other feedbacks which go to show how school teachers in our era taught and entertained students while being firm.

The first story revolves on a particular teacher who taught us mathematics. His robust masculine appearance, the streamlined moustache, hair combed backwards and pasted to the pate with Brylcream resembled the Western heart throb, Clark Gable in the film Gone with the Wind.

I could remember him entering the classroom and going straight to the blackboard, drawing figures while talking to the class stridently and then turning towards us and dictating questions for us to struggle with mathematical theorems.

It happened to be a rainy day where not many students turned up for lessons. Consequently he decided to inspect graph books of students and summoned the first boy to come up with his book.

Period of doldrums

Genave neha, Sir” (Forgot to bring ) was the boy’s answer.
Gedara palyan, gihin potha aran varen ”…..!. (Go home and bring the book), the Master ordered.

So the first boy left. Same happened to the second and third boys with equal measure. Fortunately the fourth student had his book and he was asked to remain in the classroom while the rest of the class watched until it came to his own son’s turn.

When the junior approached the teacher (father) the same question was put to him: “Ko umbe potha”. (Where is your book….? ). “Genave neha” (didn’t bring).

The teacher suddenly flipped out and called the fourth boy (who was asked to stay back), and in a silent aside said… “Lamaya umba duwala gihin ara gedara yana lamainta apahu enne kiyapan”.(Child, quickly run and ask those children who are going home to come back).

The happy lot while returning to the classroom thought they would get a reprieve because of the teacher’s son who was also in the same boat, but it was not to be.

 He commanded another boy: “Umba mage office ekata gihin mage vewela aran waren” (go to my office and bring the cane).

The ultimate result was that everyone except the one who had the book received a spanking, thus showing the impartiality and fairness displayed by a set of professional teachers.

An old Cambrian now writes referring to a particular Principal during whose tenure ‘the college activities were allowed to go to doldrums, dictated by ( S……y) the peon who was powerful and nick named as the 'Vice Principal’! Depressing indeed it was, he recollects, even his predecessor, during the final stages of being Principal of the College delegated the task of rubber stamping student reports to the peon in preference to signing them personally.

Another old boy who taught at the College for a short spell recalls a hilarious incident, connected with the ‘peon narrative’. When a notice was circulated to class teachers to ‘forward student reports to the Principal for signature’ our mathematics teacher has taken the pun out of it by commenting: “The reports must reach the peon for rubber stamping”.

Interesting characters

There were so many Tamil teachers at one time at PWC, their names ending with ….. …segaram to ………..sundaram   and ……ratnam   to ……. tanam, who were teaching Science subjects. The famous …….ratnam who used to walk, to some extent leaning to a side, was nicknamed and depicted in the College Magazine in a cartoon as “The Leaning Tower of PWC!”

Another Tamil master who taught Zoology suffered from nasty coughing bouts. It rather became a distraction, apart from spreading germs, when students became more interested in recording the number of times he coughed during a 45 minute period rather than concentrating on the lesson.

Another respectable Zoology master …….. sundaram, whose hobby was photography, hit the roof when a student had his name on display on the blackboard in big capital letters with a prefix BALU ………. . He lost his cool so much that   Mr. Nobert Dias (deceased) had to cool him down saying, “after all you are doing zoology………..” which was followed by laughter.

There were two eminent drawing masters at PWC who were equally outstanding and had been like part of the Prince of Wales College furniture. I can recall how my elder brother (the late M .R. Fernando - Former Director of Highways) telling me how he shared the office of one of these art masters (during his time) to have his lunch.

The only difference between the two drawing masters had been that one was fluent in Sinhala whereas the other one was a bit rusty. Once, the son of the master who was proficient in Sinhala had drawn a picture of two cows (one without a tail) grazing and given a poetic caption in Sinhala to suit the drawing: "Gon dedenek vel eliyake kaka uni" (Once upon a time there were two cows grazing in a paddy field).

The drawing master who was not skilful in Sinhala had admired the drawing but could not understand the poetic phrase that went with it. In the meanwhile an ebullient teacher, who was eloquent in Sinhala, had quipped in a good-humoured manner; “that’s meant for people like you”, which certainly had irked the other teacher in no small measure but could not do anything to his colleague whose sense of humour was inimitable.

Looking at the progress or the regress of the College and going back to two-three decades, the pulse of several old Cambrians felt today indicate that the reason why PWC could not retain teachers of par excellence and veracity in the Upper School was due to out-and-out mismanagement by the then Vice Principal, the famous (infamous Brahamin!) bachelor who was always seen walking along the corridors (on his heels) with feet wide apart as if to avoid obstructions on his way while dangling his bunch of keys on his left palm. Whatever the obstacles  he may have foreseen right in front of him at that time during his walks, it appears now that he had been the cause for many a student to leave Prince of Wales!

The general consensus now coming out of some old boys is that if teachers of the calibre of the late Messrs. A.P.M. Peiris or Norbert Dias had been the Vice Principal at the time, the College would have gone to a better place far beyond!

“Ich Dien!”

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