A cane basket fixed on to the handle bar, sari drop wrapped round her shoulders, a small pony tail dangling gently from side to side and riding at snail’s pace along the Moratuwa - Galle Road was indeed a rare sight to watch.
Had she consulted an astrologer on that ill-fated morning she would have been strongly advised not to step out of the house within a specific time frame where evil forces were at its peak (Rahu Kalaya). With her experience of riding bicycles for years, that particular incident was destined to take place on that precise morning when, out of the blue, her sari pota (sari drop) got entangled with the rear wheel of the bicycle. Within seconds she was flat on the ground at Kurusagaha Junction, trapped well and truly between the bicycle and the road surface.
There was less traffic on the road as otherwise her fate would have been quite different. It was certainly due to a stroke of fortune that a fisherman happened to be on the spot who immediately rushed towards her, pulled out his blood stained (fish) knife and cut the drop of the sari to release her. Fortunately she came out unscathed and the next moment she was seen riding away again like a bullet to the surprise of all bystanders.
Although she was one of the best English teachers we had, yet she was unmercifully strict and did not tolerate any gobbledygook from students. Instead of using a cane she carried a thick long pencil about one foot long in her bag which had ‘kissed’ many a forehead of middle school students.
One morning she arrived looking quite different. The normal pony tail had been arranged into a ‘bun’ like hairstyle, her ‘made-up’ face with ‘foundation’ and cream and the dark red lipstick stood out quite prominently against her sun tanned dark brown skin which startled the boys giving them some kind of a kick to rag her. As she approached the classroom with her usual greeting: ‘Good morning boys’! It was reciprocated brashly by some blaring: “Wade….! Wade..e …. Kik kige Wade..ee” !! …..nonstop, which made her go crazy.
Under provocation and enraged by the unruly behaviour within the class, she pulled her pencil out and started thumping on the foreheads of those who were sniggering at, and made one by one stand on their chairs for the rest of the period. Soon the occurrence became volatile and when it became obvious that students were getting on her nerves, she started pinching earlobes hard with her sharp and pointed red finger nails causing slight cuts and bleeding from one or two boys’ ears.
Sight of blood on ear lobes made Ramsey and two others (who were already standing on their chairs) cut themselves with a broken razor blade. Ignoring the teacher they went straight up to Mr. A. P. M. Peiris, who was the middle class head master to complain about it. Mr. Peiris diplomatically calmed the situation down and put an end to any ragging and impudent behaviour of that nature in the future.
Long sessions and Thosa clouts
Our school sessions were long from 9 am to 3 pm with a short interval at 10 am for tea and lunch break between 1-2. When the morning bell sounded for tea break there was a marathon run to TOP Charlie’s canteen to buy a Patti (five cents) and a mug of milk tea (five cents) before the limited stocks ran out. Many of us did not carry excess money except for travelling, morning tea and in most cases lunch was delivered from respective homes to children by carriers.
Some students came to college either by chauffer driven cars or parents dropped them. Those who travelled by rail had season tickets bought by parents; full of zip types rode brand new Raleigh Sports bikes while those who lived within close range walked to the College. This helped parents to have a control over children’s pocket money they brought to college.
Those students who had to eat out during the lunch break patronised nearby ‘Thosa’ (Dosai) boutiques where a good ‘Thosa diet’ and a cup of black tea cost only 12 cents, and the payment was made by carrying a small slip of paper given to customers by a waiter. A bright spark once managed to pilfer a book of such tokens, had a heyday in gobbling as much as he could and managed to ‘get away with murder’ by writing the bill for 5 cents or 12 cents on stolen slips!
As I was putting the finishing touches to this episode the following feedback from an old Cambrian made me edit the already completed version and replace with the following:
“Once a Carol Service was held at the Holy Emmanuel Church, Moratuwa, where Shelma and Dolfrey de Silva trained the singing group and structured it magnificently. On this occasion the Chief Guest happened to be the West German Ambassador and his wife (this was prior to the coming down of the Berlin Wall).
When the ‘Prince of Wales College anthem’ was sung at the ceremony some were taken by surprise to note the ambassador’s wife singing along: …………… “Among our ancient mountains, And from our lovely vales, Oh! let the pray'r re-echo, "God bless the Prince of Wales!"
After the Carol Service, a curious enquirer approached the ambassador’s wife and very politely wanted to know, being German how she became familiar with ‘Our College anthem’? With a charming smile she blurted, she was not German but British and that was the national hymn for the Prince of Wales in England!
'God Bless the Prince of Wales'is a song written to mark the occasion of the marriage of the King Edward VII of the United Kingdom to Alexandra of Denmark who got married at St. George's Chapel, Windsor, on March 10, 1863.
On July 1, 1969 the song was played at the investiture of HRH Prince Charles as the 21st Prince of Wales.
The song is only a ceremonial resonance and does not include any political accountability.