By Nishthar Idroos –
The year was 1984 and I had just finished my GCE Advanced Level Examinations. My mind was not settled on a particular course of study post GCE Advanced Level. Law, Journalism and Marketing attracted me equally. I had roughly four months to decide. I had to do something during the interim. It was during this period I visited a relative in anticipation of a job. While talking to him he received a telephone call, he excused himself and left momentarily. The radio was on and an eminent Law professor who later became much publicised figure in the Sri Lankan political scene was on the air expounding outlandish jargon on jurisprudence. I cannot for sure say whether I fully comprehended all what he said, but how he said it held my attention. The gentleman was from the University of Colombo. He was a PhD and was speaking in impeccable English. I later learnt that the individual was a double PhD. He may have not convinced me to embark on a career in law but for sure I wanted to talk like him. His vocabulary verbose, syntax accurate and impact wholesome. I was galvanised.
Nelson Mandela famously said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” I don’t think any sensible person would disagree with the statement. It’s a fact, a proverbial truism. It must also be said in the same breath that education can also be misused when largesse is dangled at people supposedly of incorruptible integrity who in fact succumb like rats to its set trap. Also what’s the purpose of education when those with it remain silent when draconian legislation is passed to further strengthen an autocratic ruler.
Not everyone is able to do a PhD, a Doctor of Philosophy, abbreviated as PhD. An award given in many countries as a postgraduate degree by universities for academic excellence in a chosen field. A doctorate of philosophy varies considerably according to the country yet the social status it produces is quite unique. The term philosophy does not refer solely to the field of philosophy, but is used in a broader sense in accordance with its original Greek meaning, which is “love of wisdom”.
When I completed my Masters twenty five years later I was naturally inclined to embark on my doctorate. Selected a university, spoke to the professor and submitted my proposal and it was accepted. The aura and euphoria I experienced was indescribable. In three to five years people will call me doctor and that was cooly cool. It was at this juncture I met an old friend Uncle Raymond a confirmed rationalist and quintessentially anti-establishment. Though he was twice my age both shared a love or you may call it hate for local politics. We were meeting after a prolong hiatus.
Both were thrilled at the prospect of seeing each other. We did a great deal of catching up. He then asked me what I was up to. I told him the usual. I was in two minds whether to mention my new adventure. Yes I wanted to impress him and I pitched him straight on for about two minutes. He listened to me rather attentively. Uncle Raymond stared at me and remained pensive and then started to speak “So you have made up your mind to become a “Permanent Head Damaged person” I said what do you mean. “That’s what they are, those blokes with PhD’s
“Oh Shut up Mr Idroos” “As if the hell caused by your species is not enough” I was puzzled at this unexpected outburst by my friend Raymond Goonatilleke. I can sense the fury in the man’s face but couldn’t understand why he was displaying such extreme behaviour. Then he unleashed a tirade on me as if I was a pickpocket. “Show me one bugger of your species, of those living now who has left a worthwhile legacy, someone with moral rectitude, show me, show me, show me” This conversation was taking place in the Dehiwala junction area and I was wondering why the cops were not diverting traffic because Uncle Raymond was firing left, right and centre.
“All the rascals are cheaters, deceivers, opportunists and grand scale collaborators” “This is exactly what they are” “If they had fulfilled what society had expected of them, at least the ones who joined party politics could have made Sri Lanka a much better place”. Then he started to mention names of Ministers and MPs and those outside with PhD and started to shred them as if chunky meat was being grounded to make some other by-product. The choice of words was unparliamentary hence not reproducible. Mr Raymond Goonatilleke was a democratic citizen and he had every reason to express his opinion. I surely would have been relatively milder but all five fingers are not the same.
Suddenly a private bus approached almost knocking us down. The conductor on the footboard chewing beetle was at the top of his voice, shouting Moratuwa, Moratuwa. Uncle Raymond looked at me and said “Putha I got to leave” “No hard feelings putha, I told you the truth. I have greater trust in the guy who brings the gas cylinder home than our PhD rascals”. He embarked the Moratuwa bound bus which disappeared into the traffic.