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Old 26-07-09, 11:08 AM
sriyanj sriyanj is offline
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Default My days at STC by Quentin Israel

Amita's kismet and the Warden's daughter
Canon's cannonball
My days at STC by Quentin Israel
The story I narrate was told to me by Amita Abeysekera many years ago and has in fact been published authoritatively by the principal actor himself. However, lest I be found accused of plagiarism, I plead in mitigation, that I write this to rekindle memories and revive a saga that may have faded into oblivion, with the passage of time. To many young Thomians, it may be a story being read for the first time.

This drama was enacted in an era when local events of interest were screened in cinemas by the Ceylon Government Unit, before the main feature films. These news items were generally screened 3 to 4 weeks after the events had taken place, and this was because the chemically treated 35mm celluloid film had to be processed in laboratories and then edited, and of necessity this process took time.

It was around this period that the Canon's only daughter, Wendy, was metamorphosing from being a gawky adolescent girl, to a comely lass. Of course, this transformation had not gone unnoticed by many a gallant would-be suitor, but the mortal fear of her stern father and what his reaction would be, dampened the ardour of many who pictured him as a fierce and protective father, of similar disposition to the father of the damsel who lived on Wolverton Mountain.

Outwardly displaying an overpowering personality that instilled fear and yet awesome respect in his charges, he was in fact, a kind and loving father. He, nevertheless, kept a tight and protective rein on his daughter's movements, but in his benevolent heart, he was always conscious and not insensitive to her needs and natural emotions that evolved with age.

He was a considerate and liberal father and gave her certain latitude within acceptable limits, being acutely aware of the tentative overtures made by many a young swain to win her heart. With time, she developed a fondness for one, to the exclusion of others.

Having won the fair maiden and vanquished his rivals, this young man had to proudly make his conquest known to the rest of the world and in particular to the Thomian fraternity. What better way could he have done it, considering the opportunities available at that time, than to triumphantly escort her to a movie in a premier theatre in Colombo. He knew that the Canon was aware of their romance and though he did not approve of it at that time, neither did he disapprove of this growing relationship.

To establish his suit, summoning all the courage he could muster, he asked her whether he could take her to the 6.30 p.m. film on Saturday at the Majestic Theatre. She replied that she would have to first obtain her father's permission before she gave him her consent. The films at that time were rated as good for family audiences.

The Canon was an understanding father. After all, he too had traversed this path in his life before, and with a disarming smile, he gave her the permission she sought. However, being the protective father he was, he said, much to her dismay, that he too would accompany them, although in fact he had no fascination for films. She conveyed her father's condition imposed on them, to her boyfriend. Though he felt unhappy, he still knew he could establish his conquest, to the world.

The Canon and the pair took their seats in the balcony of the Majestic Theatre. The man in robes was not interested in what was being shown on the screen before him and was most probably going over in his mind, the contents of the sermon he would have to preach to his students the next day. Even before the curtain went up, the good priest was drifting into the land of slumber. He may have even deliberately closed his eyes so as not to embarrass the young couple by his side. He too had once passed through this stage of courtship.

The trailers of films to be screened were over and the Ceylon Government Film Unit programme had just commenced. The Canon slept peacefully even though the speakers at the Majestic were at full volume. He was pleasantly awoken to the strains of the Thomian anthem and gently opened his eyes, and there on the wide screen before him, he saw a brief replay of the Royal - Thomian cricket match, played three weeks earlier. His heart warmed and he was mentally alert again.

The camera showed portions of the game and then zoomed on the Royal and then the Thomian boys' tents. Alas! fate played a cruel hand and destined that Amita's career at S.T.C. should come to an abrupt and traumatic end.

In the Thomian tent was our hero, draped in blue and black, dancing in unsteady gait the baila to the beat of a nagasalam band from Wanathamulla, in a state of almost total intoxication, with a half empty glass in one hand and bottle of arrack in the other. I doubt very much the Canon slept thereafter during the film, or even through the rest of that fateful night.

I must digress now to mention that Amita had entertained an illusion that he would be appointed a School Officer soon, in fact, he felt, it was long overdue and knew this appointment would indeed enhance his stature in the college. This thought was ever present in his mind, to a point of obsession.

The following Monday morning, Amita was summoned to the Warden's office. Amita was nonplussed as to the reason for this summons. After all, the Royal - Thomian was over three weeks ago. Suddenly the coin dropped and it dawned on him that perhaps he was, even belatedly, to be appointed a School Officer. Then again, no appointments were made mid-term. Amita concluded that the Warden's conscience had assailed him to make this exception.

Amita, in breathless anticipation, gently tapped at the Warden's office door. The Warden ordered Amita to enter, but after he entered, ignored him and continued with his work for some time, before looking at Amita gravely, who by now was standing smartly to attention.

The Warden looked him straight in the eye and with a voice showing no emotion addressed him - "Abeysekera, how long have you been at S.T.C.?" Amita, now certain that he was checking his seniority, boldly replied, "Sir, from baby class, the lower kindergarten." The Canon perusing the file before him, said. "Yes, I can see it is so. Tell me Abeyesekera, as you have been at S.T.C. for some time, do you respect the traditions of the school and its discipline?"

Amita was elated, as he felt that was the question that would seal his appointment. He pondered a while for effect and with a serious expression on his face, replied, "Most certainly Sir, I abide by the discipline of the school and can also enforce it." Thereby he indicated to the Warden that he had the requirements necessary to be made a school officer. The Canon then calmly asked him - "Do you love the school?" What manner of question is this, thought Amita. Do not all Thomians love S.T.C.? Yet he had to answer - "Yes Sir, I love the school very much.” “If so,” Canon continued, "Would you do something for the school, should I make a request from you?" "Yes Sir,”said Amita joyously and clicked his heels together in emphasis. "I would do anything you ask. I am even prepared to die for the school, yes Sir, I will die for the school - Esto Perpetua.” "Dying for the school, would not be required. Please leave this college,” the Warden imperiously demanded, as he raised his voice.

Poor Amita was shattered and so dumbfounded, a puff of wind would have knocked him down. The Warden then told him of his misdemeanors and the consequences of his folly. Amita then collected himself together and mournfully retraced his steps, with tears in his eyes.

The Warden did not relent, however much it would have broken his heart. He was head of the school and a firm disciplinarian. Moreover, there were other boys in the College. He did not expel him, but requested him to leave. He did not abandon him but found him employment. To Amita's eternal credit, he never harboured any ill will or bore any malice or animosity against the great priest and mentor.

Years later, when the Canon was fuelling his red Triumph Herald at the petrol shed in Mt. Lavinia, Amita saw his Ex-Warden and cautiously approaching him, timidly asked "Sir, I wonder whether you remember me?" The Warden turned around, considered him and with a twinkle in his eye, told him, "Remember you? I am trying to spend the rest of my life trying to forget you.”

Many others have claimed this had happened to them as well. I refer to my last paragraph.

-The writer is an old boy of Trinity and was Headmaster of the upper school of S. Thomas College, Mount Lavinia
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Old 25-12-10, 08:25 AM
sriyanjay sriyanjay is offline
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Default Mr.Quentin Israel

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