26 June, 2017

Ananda College – Not A Station, But A Moving Train

By Palitha Pelpola

Palitha Pelpola

“When to the sessions of sweet silent thought I summon up remembrance of things past”~William Shakespeare, Sonnet (30)

Ananda 125 Years – A review

Ananda College, named after the principal disciple of Siddhartha Gautama the Buddha is, more often than not, revered for her celebrated contributions to the revival of traditional Buddhist education, reckoned for her distinct accomplishments in non-academic fields and scorned and looked down upon by condescending social-climbers who missed the rare opportunity to attend Ananda College to pursue their primary and secondary education, still remains at the very top tier of educational institutions in Sri Lanka. I state that, not as a so-called proud old-Anandian, but an ordinary citizen making a mere statement of fact. Ananda’s journey over the past 130 years has led through a path of glory and disappointment; it’s been through hardships for the teachers and torrid times for the students; it’s been one magnificent journey, through the proverbial peaks and valleys, whose end is nowhere near but in the distant future. Ananda is not a station as most of our admirers respect; it is a fast moving train taking its travelers along moonlit nights as well as broad daylight; without any favor or fervor, without any irrational emotion but a whole lot of passion. 

In completing ‘Anandaya – the first 125 Years’, a dedicated team of chroniclers have made a remarkable effort at painting a marvelous picture on a broad and seamless canvas, with cold professionalism and painstaking attention to detail one would see in an accomplished biographer. It has provided each reader of each era with a timeless impression of reminiscence of what he went through in that long and arduous journey. That is the inescapable essence of the chronicle that is before us. Whilst recounting the dates and times of each era, whilst presenting a factual picture of the varied struggles and tribulations ‘Ananda’, as a collective mindset of faceless thousands who have passed through the ages of pre-Independence and post-Independence Sri Lanka had to endure, the authors have been able to maintain a remarkable sense of balance in highlighting those characters who shaped and defined what is left today as the legacy of ‘Ananda’.

Many a review has already been written of the book we are talking about today. I’m not going to be judgmental on those efforts, nor am I going to be judgmental on the very institution that is called Ananda and her place in Sri Lanka’s society in relation to each of us. All products of Ananda College have not achieved the pinnacle of society. All have not achieved the desired results when they entered school and completed their education from their formative years to late teens. Yet we indulge in the glories of those few who went to the top of our societal ranks, whether they be of professional, academic or political sort. Many have fallen by the way side. Many have found no light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Many have grown accustomed to the utterly discriminative nature some of our masters and even Principals had resorted to during the reformative ages of our nation as one struggling to raise her head above water during and after the colonial times.

When stipulating these thoughts and beliefs, one must unvaryingly grapple with the fundamental question one must ask as an old-Anandian or even a non-old-Anandian. What is the concept of ‘Ananda’? Is it merely a concept, or is it a living organism? Is it the buildings? Is it the teachers and principals? Is it what we have attained in our respective lives, professionally and personally? Is it the countless lessons we have absorbed or is it an illusion or a mirage that we store within ourselves and never try to give expression to, for fear of finding the inglorious truths hidden behind those illusions and mirages? Or is it the combination of all these aspects and influences and more? I don’t have an answer to these endless alternatives. I dare not choose one from amongst these choices. To do so would be utterly condescending, a characteristic which Anandians are not known for. That, they say, belonged to alumni of other so-called ‘classy’ schools who hurl scorn at Anandians for not being so ‘classy’.

Taken in that context of contemporary historical experiences, has ‘Anandaya – the first  125 Years’, the publication we are reviewing today, accomplished its singular and primary task of telling a tale of enchantment, sorrow, courage, achievement, despair, hope and valor? If the reader has the patience and insight, if he or she can absorb the niceties and cruelties of the times, from the 1880s to the twenty first century, if he has the elementary keenness to sit down and indulge in it as a book of reference which he can every now and then turn to a page and relive the experiences it tries to narrate, it has accomplished its task and done even more. It is not a Frederick Forsyth thriller which one won’t put down until one reaches its last few pages in which the plot has thickened and the plan has combined with the key characters to spring up a surprise. Nor is it a biography of a contemporary politician whose scandals outnumber the ‘good’ deeds he has done for the community he is sworn in to serve. It is a coffee-table-book which belongs more in those abodes where there are no coffee tables; it is a publication which has embraced a history of a nation struggling to shake away the cobwebs of colonial domination; a gem of a production whose narrative is difficult to digest because of its weighty substance. And the authors must not be discouraged by that response from a majority of readers.

Ananda, as all good things, is more difficult to achieve, more precious to part with, more sustaining than a victory at a big-match. Ananda is the whole experience of life; its awesome dignity dwells in the values it has imparted to its students; not Buddhist values, not Sinhalese values, not traditional values nor modern-day values, just plain human values. Ananda’s contribution towards the sustenance of human values surpasses its own material values of which volumes have already been penned for posterity.      

       

After all, what Ananda means to each old-Anandian is not what others tell him about it. It is what he or she has taken or not taken home from it. It is fundamentally personal and private. What Ananda represents to each and every old-Anandian who attended this great school, from the 1880s to the present day, is unique and exclusive and at the same time universal and all-encompassing. On November 10, 1922, Rabindranath Tagore, considered by a great many as the greatest literary figure in all human history, visited Ananda College in Colombo as the chief guest of the annual prize-giving ceremony. It is apt to refer to one of his famous quotations as follows: “Patriotism cannot be our final spiritual shelter; my refuge is humanity. I will not buy glass for the price of diamonds, and I will never allow patriotism to triumph over humanity as long as I live.”  In the writer’s opinion, that is the one great lesson Ananda has imparted to us. In the same vein, Ignazio Silone, the author of the timeless novel Fontamara said: “I am a Christian without a church; a socialist without a party and a citizen without a country”. Such sublime thoughts are capable of being born in many an old-Anandian. Silone also said thus: “On a group of theories one can found a school; but on a group of values one can found a culture”. Ananda founded more than a school, it founded a culture.

When a well-accomplished academic sits down in the deepening hours of twilight, in his well-lit study surrounded by hundreds of books, he may turn the leaves of Anandaya – the first 125 Years; in another far-off land, a professional who pursued his post-graduate studies in western lands might wake up early morning and before his usual morning constitutional, with a mugful of coffee in hand, glance through the pages of Anandaya – the first 125 Years, and yet in a very average household in the suburbs of Colombo or in a far-off hamlet in rural Sri Lanka, the father of the household will turn the pages very proudly and try to instil in his teenage son what to do and what not to do in life’s long journey. They are occupying varied social tiers and earn varied incomes but the common thread that binds them is that they are all old-Anandians. When one goes through the pages of this book, whichever tier of society one belongs to, to be part of that whole, not the singular tier, but the collective whole, makes one tremble not with fear but awe that Ananda has instilled in them. To me, that is Ananda, the whole. Anandaya – the first 125 Years has done that awesome legacy proud.

palithapelpola@gmail.com

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Latest comments

  • 6
    12

    The writer is not a great product of Ananda. He was a UNPer even at school. That was his only qualification. Pelpolas are all alike. All political appointees.

    • 3
      8

      As any other colleges int he country, AC too have produced more evil men than the goodies.

      Best example of AC in today s spot light is Udaya Gonthadipila.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hy76dcetbXA

      His politics is so abusive as no other politicians in entire south asian region.
      No matter anything and everything would have gone wrong, he would defend the wrong parties for his own survival.

      The kind of most abusive men in lanken politcs must be jailed forever if we the nation to march to prosperity.

      • 9
        13

        Ananda is the hot bed of Sinhala racism in Srilanka. Fair minded Anandians are ashamed of the behaviour of these racists.

      • 9
        0

        If you are referring to Udaya Gammanpila, he was from D.S.Senanayaka. However, very few of his batch mates like him.

      • 0
        7

        Let me correct this please, there are enough old anandians behave so racial, but calling them to have completed their schooling at AC.

        It was my mistake to have added that Gonthadipila to be an old anandian.

      • 0
        0

        Udaya gamanpila wasn’t an Anadian. He was from DS

    • 9
      3

      This is a crude and vulgar attack on Mr Pelpola by Daham.How does Mr P’s political affiliations make him bad?For the little I have known him,Mr P impressed me as a fine gentlemen of excellent breeding.Hope others who have known him for longer will express their disgust at this shameful mud slinging.

      • 4
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        Friend In Colombo

        You are right, you do not know him very well at all . We knew him when he was secretary to a very powerful minister .People come back down to earth when they lose power and recognition .

        • 1
          1

          Now PP is sucking up to the president and has become one of the many secretaries of THE President.

      • 2
        2

        Agreed on the sentiments expressed by Friend in CBO on Mr. Pelpola who had been known to me for about forty years and appreciate his article although I am not an Anandian.

      • 3
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        Never said that he was a bad guy. he was just a below average student at that time. There was one humble guy named Bandula Amarasekara who really excelled coming fist in Sri Lanka in both GCE(OL)(1966) and GCE(AL)(1969). Before that, there were the Vickramabahus(Bahu) the Ranaweeras, as well. Vachissara Thera talked about these people and not about PP. PP was the priavate secretary of GD.

  • 3
    8

    Mr. Pelpola,
    “To do so would be utterly condescending, a characteristic which Anandians are not known for. That, they say, belonged to old-Royalists, old-Thomians, Old-Trinitians, old-Peterites, old-Josephians and present and old boys of other so-called ‘classy’ schools who hurl scorn at Anandians and for that matter, Nalandians, our brothers behind our backyard for not being ‘classy’.”
    This may be true, but don’t you think Anandians have brought this on themselves? Is it the Josephians / Thomians or even Royalists etc who riot over Big Matches? The sort of attitudes currently promoted at Ananda contribute to the situation. Extreme chip-on- the-shoulder type nationalism does not go well with sportsmanship. Sarath Fonseka is a good example. Compare him with Janaka Perera, a Josephian.

  • 7
    1

    Are you the boy who got drunk and threatened Mrs. Bandaranaike in Nuwara Eliya with a bunch of other UNP goons and got away because JR manipulated the court system? There was a drunk thug Pelpola and a bunch of others who after the UNP won decided to abuse and insult Mrs. B. A really low class bunch of boors. Not sure if you were one of those. If so or if not will you clarify please?

  • 8
    10

    I remember a man called Mettananda, a principal of Ananda College, a spewer of hatred towards the Tamils, a promoter of violence. How can the notion of Ananda and Buddhism condone anything that is rooted in such hatred? How many communal fanatics did this school produce with a principal like that? I hope that the history records this as well. From past contacts, my view is that Ananda products have a chip on their shoulders and take refuge in religion and language to justify their inferiority which always stands out like a sore thumb the moment they open their lips.

    • 2
      5

      During the 1983 riots many students from Ananda and Nalanda openly wearing their school uniforms were seen going around burning and looting Tamil homes around Borella Dematagoda areas. My friends house in Borella was burnt looted by students from Ananda/Nalanda. They were further enraged when they saw bibles and Christian materials in her house. They shouted it is not only a Tamil home but a Tamil Christian home and started to destroy and burn the bibles. This is a true incident. All my interaction from former students from this school confirms this view. More than 90% of them are racist and hate Tamils.

  • 8
    1

    Is it not Gota R a product of Ananda college?
    I would certainly not claim that St.Thomas or Royal produced a good statesman for SL.
    SWRD AND JR brought seath and destruction to the country

  • 7
    2

    The revival of Buddhist education was the result of an initiative of an Englishman E.M. Burrows who with the help of some scholar monks founded the Oriental Studies Society. ” Sri Lanka Pracheena Bashopakara Samithiya” in 1902. Prof. Asanga Tilakaratne, Head of Department of Buddhist Philosophy, Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies writes in the Ceylon Daily News 2003 “ OSS was established in 1902 with the initiative taken by E.M. Burrows, the then Director of Education, with the intention of regulating the Pirivena education, which, in his opinion, lacked any uniform method or approach. The initial meeting was attended by a group of leading scholars of the country.It included, in addition to Mr. Burrows, the following: Hikkaduve Sri Sumangala Nayaka Thera and Ratmalane Sri Dharmarama Nayaka Thera, Principals of Vidyodaya and Vidyalankara Pirivenas …… “

    Ananda was a Buddhist activist response to Christian missionary public school education in Colonial times. It was modeled on lines of a British Public School located in the emerging Buddhist consciousness as was constructed by the Theosophists led by Colonel Olcott.
    Its purpose was to produce Buddhist gentleman all-rounders, who could recite ‘ Pansil’, acquire knowledge and excel in sports, specially cricket. As it turned out they produced many all-rounder scholars and great professional cricketers.
    Reading war memoirs of some Old Anandian war heroes, one could reasonably surmise that it has also produced some professional Buddhists albeit in uniform. .

    • 1
      5

      Sarath de A,
      “Reading war memoirs of some Old Anandian war heroes, one could reasonably surmise that it has also produced some professional Buddhists albeit in uniform.”
      Professional Buddhist? An inscrutable comment, if there was one .

  • 8
    7

    I was sad, but not surprised, young Anandians, in their white uniforms,
    were seen prominently in numbers during the attacks on Tamil houses around Ananda College – in Maradana, Borella, Punchi Borella, Dematagoda and so on. They not only destroyed Tamil property and businesses but took away valuable clothes, expensive house-hold articles etc., These heroes even killed a dog in a Tamil house calling the animal “demala balla” That was one of the rare times when animals were inducted into the ethnic conflict!!! Many of these fired up boys were acting on the false and misled belief they were doing this for jatiya and aagama. Nalandians were not free of the crime either.

    It was, to some extent, the infamous N.Q. Dias – the father of another loud Anandian extremist Gomin D, who provided impetus to this new and false “Buddhist Sinhala Nationalism” that grew progressively. This he did from his powerful position as Defence Secretary under Mrs. B in that ultra-Sinhala Buddhist Govt of the 60s. All of this went to provide inspiration and cause for Tamil youth at that time to be convinced they are an alienated and irrelevant community – “the other” if you like. The country remains almost irrecoverable since then despite occasion half-hearted cosmetic efforts – more to please the donors and the global community.

    R. Varathan

    • 5
      7

      Very true, Varathan!

      • 8
        7

        Sadly it is true that this school is an insult to Buddhism as taught by the Buddha. It may be true to Sinhala Buddhism of the Mahavamsa which preaches hatred towards all who are not Sinhalese. It makes Buddhism a jihadi religion. It condones killing and it is known that many of its students were set to loot and kill Tamils. They also found their way into the armed forces to continue to do that through official means. Not much that is good could be said by the minorities about this school. It has no Ananda, no Maitreya, no Metta, no Buddhism as taught by the Buddha.

      • 5
        6

        Mr. Varthan.Sir , you really made be to be ashamed of my Sinhala Buddhist roots by that erudite, factual, sober analysis.There is now tiny window for healing , challenging as it is.It is incumbent on all Sri Lankans to ensure July 83 never never occurs.

        • 0
          0

          Palitha Basnayake,

          I just saw your kindly post. If we had a few more Sinhalese like you
          this country can easily be re-built, within 15-20 years, to one that can feed, provide comfort and a much better life to all our 22 million – united in friendship and harmony.

          Thank you, my friend.

          R. Varathan

  • 4
    0

    If I am not mistaken Janaka Perera was also an Anandian and Udaya G completed senior years at DSS though I may be wrong here. May be their classmates could confirm..

  • 8
    4

    Palitha Pelpola is an accomplished writer and I believe Ananda is more than a school where the national pride was instilled among it’s diverse students.

    • 3
      3

      Pelpola’s writing is a bit fractured: “Many have grown accustomed to the utterly discriminative nature some of our masters and even Principals had resorted to during the reformative ages “.
      The best Anandian writer (in English) I know of is Gamini Akmeemana of the Daily Mirror, a non-racist who is an example to other Anandians.

  • 10
    0

    In the mid-fifties Tamil was taught to young Anandians. Sinhalese was taught at Jaffna Hindu. Then came the politicians with the language/religious divide………

    • 5
      4

      A neighbour of mine, a good Buddhist and senior in the teaching staff of Ananda, used to speak in glowing terms of several Tamil colleagues of his who imparted to students excellent knowledge in English, Sciences, Maths in the pre-1960s. The growth of Ananda College, in many ways, therefore, had within it an undeniable Tamil presence.

      In a way Ananda was enmeshed in the aftermath of the Social Revolution of 1956 that was a combination of the good, the bad and the ugly. The bad and the ugly appears to have prevailed burying the good for all time.
      What a pity!

      R. Varathan

  • 5
    10

    Ananda,Nalanda are indeed great schools.But at the end of the day.Royal and STC,followed by St Peters,St Joseph’s,Trinity steal the thunder.Today all the aforementioned schools are no better than one another as far as standards go.

    For sheer elitism they have been replaced by schools such British School,Colombo International School and Overseas School. Royal and others have been relegated to the second tier.See the quality of old boys.Eg Mahindanande Aluthgamage (Royal-who looks-likened just escaped from Africa to SL.This leaves our Mariyakade schools (made famous by the likes of Gotabhaya R of White Van fame)a far third.Actually Ananda and Nalanda never made it to the elitist league.Thats a fact.

  • 2
    0

    Mr.Pelpola,
    Imagine a scenario in which Rabindranath Tahore is invited to Ananda in Maradana to talk about human values what will happegn ? My view is smart patriot DJ will lead a maas of people who want to bring back MaRa Bros & Co to power, from Hyde Park Corner to Nelum Pokna, carrying pkacards shouting you Ranil and Srisena send the Indian back home. Followed by that march there will be a repetition of black July and this time Armed Forces will take over the power with GR as the leader. Contrary to how JR managed to stayed in power in 1983 and signed the JR-Rajiv pact.

  • 5
    2

    I read with great interest the write-up by Mr Palitha Pelpola on the recent publication about ‘our’ Alma Mater, ‘the one and only Ananda’. I do not know the writer personally but I must admit he has done a very decent job of it.
    However, I am rather saddened by the comments made by some of the critics (who I take are all fellow-old-Anandians) sadly aiming ‘below the belt’ as it were against the writer and other commentators (rather than expressing one’s view about this – in my own view – excellent chronicle).
    Any critic is entitled to express his (or her) view freely, although it might not be particularly palatable to another.
    I would be the first to agree that Ananda has been (and still is) among the best all-round seats of education available in Sri Lanka. We can not expect every single Old Anandian to ‘shine’ equally in society: There are bound to be some bad eggs in any basket! Taken overall however we must admit that we have done quite well during the period under review, particularly since our support base came from the middle class of society; not necessarily the ‘elite’ as in the case of Royal or St. Thomas’s.
    Let’s all get together in the true spirit inculcated in us by our Alma Mater and wish her well!
    L I Wijesuriya

  • 4
    0

    St Josephs and Ananda are in Maradana.
    GR is from Ananda. DJ is from St Josephs. What is difference in charactor beteen these two smart patriots. Both believe in supremacy by birth.

    • 1
      3

      Our famous Cheap Justice was also a Josephian.
      I hear Gandasara is Anandian?

  • 7
    1

    It was not the colorful Thomians, Royalists and Trinitians or even the slighlt less colourful peterites and Joesaphians who conducted the war to a succesful completetion against the LTTE. It was the mainly led by Anandians-GR,SF etc. Even the frontline commanders like Kamal Gunaratne and Prassanne Silva are from Ananada.

  • 6
    0

    Former Attorney General Pasupathy, TULF Ministers Yogeswaran and V Navaratnam are also old Anandians

  • 0
    0

    Imbuldeniya,

    He was the one who with some UNP thugs hooted and threatened Mrs.B. who also staying at same holiday bungalow.
    Mrs.Filed action in courts and if I am not mistaken Mr.Pelpola had to apologize in courts.
    This was not a quality of a good Anandian.

  • 4
    0

    I do not know much about the author of the book.. but reading through the comments I regret very much the kind of readership the Colombo Telegrapgh has, taking the people who comment as a sample of total readership. What a low grade mentality they have and everybody seem to think that they come from elite schools.. Oh no far from it the moments are not elitist. Search for alumnus to see the quality of the people but not make wild comments with prejudices

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