I joined Ananda in 1955.
Having successfully completed the then Senior School Certificate (SSC) examination at St. Bede’s College Badulla I was encouraged by my parents and teachers alike to pursue a University education. As facilities were not available at the Badulla District I applied and was successful at an examination and an interview held by Ananda College for admission to the University entrance first year Arts class.
I chose my strongest subject Geography as one of the subjects for the UE examination. I became the Secretary of the Ananda College Geographical Society. In the year 1956 the Geographical Society organized a study tour of the Horton Plains and the famous ‘Worlds End’. The staff members who participated in the trip were Miss Liyanage President Geographical Society our lecturer in Geography, Miss Senanayake, Mr. & Mrs., E P Jayawardena, Mr. D B Kuruppu, and Mr. S K K Sooriya Arachchi who later took to politics and became an MP and a Minister. Horton Plains at Nuwara-Eliya is a hop and a step from my parent’s residence at Ettampitiya off Bandarawela. During this period my father Y G Jayasinghe was the Member of Parliament for Bandarawela. My father insisted that the busload of 52 teachers and students would be his guests from the time they enter and leave his territory. The Geographical Society had no choice.
This study tour was adventurous. The most convenient and the fastest route to Horton Plains for bush walkers are located very close to the Ohiya Railway Station. The picnic party had to board the Colombo bound Udarata Menike train at the Haputale Railway Station at 08.00.a.m. and get to the Ohiya railway station at 8.30.a.m. The only mode of public transport available for picnic parties going to the Horton Plains and the World’s end then was the train from the Ohiya Railway Station. The train comes back at 4.30.p.m to take you back to Haputale Railway Station. Therefore we had eight hours to climb up to Horton Plains and come back to the Ohiya railway station to be in time to catch the train for the return journey to Haputale.
The lady teachers and a group of students 10 in all could not make it. I was back, in time at the railway station with the rest. That night we were to spend at my parent’s place at Ettampitiya a two-hours drive from the Haputale railway station. If all went well we should have reached my home at about 7.00.p.m. Two male teachers and I dispatched the crowd who arrived in time by the 4.20.p.m. train to Haputale in charge of a male teacher requesting them to inform my father of the mishap and that we would get late to come. Thereafter we met the Station Master and discussed the possibility of making transport arrangements for those who were left behind. We were able to arrange an estate lorry of a nearby tea estate to take the rest of us to Haputale. The lorry left the Ohiya railway station at about 8.00. p.m. The lady teachers were seated in the front seat beside the driver. Everyone else had to get into the rear of the lorry and be seated on the floor. The two-hour journey to Haputale through the winding mountainous road was a torture and treacherous especially for those who traveled at the rear of the lorry. What an experience. We reached Haputale at about 10.30.p.m. and thereafter with the rest of the crowd went to my parent’s residence at about 1.30.a.m. Very few had dinner. Majority went to sleep straight away. My father entertained the male teachers for a hard earned drink.
The following morning every thing was normal. Our return journey to Colombo was through Nuwara-Eliya. We had lunch at Nuwa-Eliya. As you know Nuwara-Eliya has one of the oldest breweries in the Country and when at Nuwar-Eliya one rarely misses the opportunity to taste a glass of beer. It was no exception for our boys. However, organizers had to answer lot of questions from the Principal who inquired from some of the staff members who participated in the trip about the incident at Nuwara-Eliya except from Mr. Kuruppu. Ultimately all that started well ended well.
In the year 1962 I took duties as the Assistant Depot Superintendent C T B Ratmalana Depot. A driver came to greet me and asked, Sir, Can you remember me? I was the driver of the bus of your Ananda College trip to Horton Place. Yes, I remembered we hired the bus from the then South Western Bus Company that became the Ratmalana Depot under the C T B. What a small world.
At St.Bede’s College Badulla I was an Athlete, Soccer and Volley Ball Captain. A member of the Sinhalese and English debating teams and a member of the Sinhalese drama and the cultural society. I was the Captain of the Village Volley Ball team, a member of the village temple dayaka sabawa and a member of the village drama “Nadagam” society.
At Ananda I became a member of the drama and the cultural society. During this period the Sinhalese Cultural Society held the Annual General Meeting and the election of office bearers were on the agenda. There had always been a contest between the Arts and Science sections to hold office in the Society. The post of President had been keenly contested. I was nominated for the post of President from the Arts section. The elections preceded a period of vigorous campaign launched from both sides. I being a politician’s son gave a political touch for the campaign. I was new to the college. My opponent had been in College for more than five years. I printed and distributed a handbill with my photograph on it and with a short write-up. However, I lost by 7 votes. This was a tremendous experience.
During this period Maname hit the stage and was a turning point of the drama culture. Ananda drama and cultural society decided to stage a play similar to Maname. We selected the Rawana and Seetha story and to stage the play as “Rawana”. J B Dissanayake my class mate and a scholar of the Sinhalese Language was given the task of writing the script. The script was marvelous; any one looking at it would have thought that it was the work of a Professor. Yes, today J B is the Professor of Sinhala at the Colombo University.
Two of us commenced rehearsing as Rawana. As time went on my services were used more on logistics than rehearsing. I had a driver’s license and invariably I had to pick up the female members of the cast and their parents for rehearsals and drop them back. In between I had to attend to a lot of odd jobs. Eventually I was considered more useful for logistics. We staged Rawana and it was a very successful production of the Aananda College Drama and Cultural Society. A senior staff member Mr. Lakshman Dissanayake was the director of Rawana.
I joined the College Sinhalese and English debating teams. A significant incident comes to my mind that took place in our scheduled debate between Ananda and the Castle Street Balika Vidyalaya The debate was to have taken place on a Friday afternoon at 2.00.p.m. at the Castle Street Balika Vidyalaya. At about 1.30.p.m. our debating team left the college premises in a coach to the Castle Street Balika Vidyalaya. When we arrived we saw the school premises deserted. We met the Principal, few members of the staff and some members of the debating team in the office. They were surprised to see us there. They told us that they were informed over the phone at about 1.15.p.m. that we are unable to come and we have to postpone the debate. They said that they called back to verify and it was confirmed. It was evident that it was the work of a mischief-maker. Our Principal was very angry and launched an investigation. Months later we knew what had happened. The girl friend of one of the members of our debating team was a member of the Castle Street Balika Vidyalaya debating team. In fact both of them had been instrumental in bringing about this debate in order to be on the stage on both sides and to boost their images. Friends on both sides had played a practical joke, which went wrong.
I joined the College athletic team in time for the Public Schools Athletic Championship Meet. Our team was very strong with champions like Oswald Rajapaksha taking the High jump and the Pole Volt, Dhammika Attanagoda the Long Jump and the Hop Step and Jump, Jolly Somasundrama taking the Put Shot. I was a sprinter and contributed to win the 200x4 and 400x4 relays. Ananda won the Public Schools Championship Tarbet Shield.
I played for the College Soccer and Volley Ball teams as well. The Inter-School Soccer Championship had just commenced when I joined the team. Our first match was against Dharmapala Vidyalaya, Pannipitiya. I scored the winning goal at this match. The picture of this movement can be seen when I close my eyes and think of it even now. That will go down in my memory. Soccer is a game that involves the community. The match between Ananda and Zahira divide the Maradana community, Mariyakade supporting Ananda and Zahira supported by Panchikawatta. Sometimes it ends up in violence. The year I played the big match it was a 2 all draw and parties dispersed calmly.
I participated actively in all College religious activities.
If you have the talent and the will, Ananda provides you the stage to develop them. If you are intelligent and reap the benefits you will be a Man.
I did just that and Ananda made me a Man.
Thank you Ananda.
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