Colombo Diary of Teenage Years (1965-1970)
by Sachi Sri Kantha
When my teenage period began (from 1966 May 8 onwards), I was living at No. 10, Government Flats, L-block, Bambalapitiya, Colombo 4, with my family. Then, I was at Grade 10, at Colombo Hindu College, Ratmalana. I had been chosen for the honorary job of being the ‘class monitor’. Our school principal was Sangarapillai Ambalavanar (1911-1996), a native of Tambiluvil, Eastern Province; he taught physics to our class. My father (1923-2003) was employed at the General Clerical Service of Department of Health. His then work station was the then Anti-Venereal Diseases Campaign, in Borella.
There were two reasons, why I began my teenage diary scribbles. First, was the stimulus from my father. After I reached 10, he induced me to ‘write anything, even four-line poetry’ in Tamil and send them to the Children sections of the Tamil daily newspapers. I did try writing Tamil poetry, but couldn’t carry the burden. The main reason was, I hadn’t started reading voraciously in Tamil. I knew then that I’m no Kannadasan! The second reason was, a news item in Tamil, about the popularity of a diary written by a Jewish teenage girl Anne Frank (1929-1945), who had died at the age of 15; and her father Otto Frank later published her diaries in 1947 (original Dutch language) and gained global recognition. Again, my father had read it, and impressed it on me. So, I thought, why not try my ability in diary writing, which need NOT have to be published in print? My confession here. When I started my diary scribbles in a mixture of English and Tamil, at the age of 13+, I had NOT read Anne Frank’s diaries in either Tamil or English translations.
Between 1965 and 1970, I wrote randomly, mainly about the events/movies/lectures I had seen/attended, or in which I was involved, or was somewhat impressed (or affected) by. MGR’s visit to Ceylon with his then co-star B. Sarojadevi in October 1965 gave a good starting point for my diary scribbles, in a mixture of Tamil and English. My world view was mainly restricted to events happening in my school and Tamil Nadu, India. In transcribing these entries here, I had polished the entries in English for grammar and spelling marginally, but the spirit of my teenage thoughts have been retained, as in the originals.
Oct 22 Friday: In the morning, we were at the nearby Ratmalana airport, to welcome actor M.G. Ramachandran (MGR) and actress B. Sarojadevi. After exiting via VIP lounge, MGR and Sarojadevi left in an open car parade towards Colombo. So much crowd to see MGR. Some of us ran behind this car for a while. There was a ‘shooting like moment’ which we witnessed, when the open car parade picked up speed. One of the fans broke up, from the crowd which was running behind the open car, and almost reached the side on which Sarojadevi was sitting and attempted to pull her hand. Being frightened by the invasion of her intimate space, Sarojadevi slanted her body towards MGR’s space. Realizing instinctly, what was happening, like in a real movie scene, MGR swiftly deflected the invading hands of the fan from his heroine’s body. I’m sure there were no movie cameras to record this scene. But we fans, who were running behind the open car, were lucky to be treated this impressive act with our eyes.
Oct 23 Saturday: Deepavali day. MGR’s ‘Enga Veetu Pillai’ hit movie opened yesterday in Kingsley, Plaza and Nava theaters in Colombo. It was released in Madras for Thai Pongal, last January.
Oct.31 Sunday: with sister, went to see ‘Enga Veetu Pillai’ matinee movie at Plaza theatre. Theatre was full. I liked the movie and it’s songs. MGR sparkles in double role.
Nov. 10 Wednesday: Prize giving day at the College. I received the Class prize for Tamil. Chief guests are Mr. J.R. Jayewardene (Minister of State) and Mrs. Jayewardene. Received two Tamil books – one a novel ‘Mul Veli’ by P.M. Kannan and a long biography of Swami Vivekananda by R. Kanapathi – from Mrs. Jayewardene. I didn’t concentrate on what J.R. Jayewardene spoke to us. Though I had pre-paid for a photo to be taken when I was receiving the prize, for some reason the photographer missed the occasion. I was disappointed. They didn’t even return the money paid.
Dec. (Year roundup): As of now, I had seen only five MGR movies. These being, Thai Sollai Thattate, Periya Idathu Penn, Panakkara Kudumbam, Vettaikaran and Enga Veetu Pillai. I want to see his other older movies. But, mother is not willing, when I talk about it. She says, ‘Will your MGR come and feed you, if you don’t study?’ This becoming a routine and we have an argument.
Jan. 1 Saturday: Instead of the Saturday-Sunday weekend routine which we had followed up to now, due to political demands to satisfy the Buddhists, the ‘routine weekend’ was switched to pre-Poya day and Poya day (Poya = full moon, a Buddhist holy day), from this year. The new calendar was based on the lunar calendar.
July 23 Saturday: Sat for the 5th grade Theory test of Carnatic Music exam, conducted by the North Ceylon Oriental Music Society.
Oct 28 Friday: I was examined by Carnatic Musician vocalist, T.K. Rangachari, from India, for the 5th grade Practical test of Carnatic Music exam, conducted by North Ceylon Oriental Music Society.
Dec.: sat for the G.C.E. Ordinary Level exam. Eight subjects I offered were Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Mathematics, Tamil, Hinduism, English and Carnatic Music.
Father enrolled me in the British Council library at the Colpetty. I could lend two books at a time. The books I borrowed were, ‘The Moonstone’ novel by Wilkie Collins and a short book ‘How We Weigh and Measure?’ by Arthur Groom and Susan Groom. Of the two, I could never read more than two pages of the Wilkie Collins novel. But, I completed reading ‘How We Weigh and Measure’, because the English was easy to read in this book.
Jan. 3 Tuesday : I went to see Modern Theatre’s production ‘Vallavanukku Vallavan’ Tamil movie, at Plaza theatre. This was promoted as the 100th production of Modern Theatre. Few songs written by Kannadasan were good.
Jan 4 Wednesday: College re-opened. I was promoted to Advanced level class.
Jan. 12 Thursday: Designated Shramadana [Gift of Labour] day at college. We did some weeding in the college ground premises.
Jan 13 Friday: News came that MGR was shot by M.R. Radha yesterday evening.
Usually we buy only Ceylon Daily News paper daily at home. But, because of yesterday’s shooting news in Madras, father had bought Thinakaran paper also for me to read.
Jan.14-17 Saturday-Tuesday: Father continued to buy Thinakaran paper, so that I could read about MGR’s health condition.
Jan 18 Wednesday: Went to Moor’s Sports Club, with Chandrasekaran Williams, to buy season ticket (5 rupees) for the three day West Indies vs. Ceylon cricket match.
Jan 21 Saturday: 1st day West Indies vs Ceylon. Match was played at the P. Saravanamuttu stadium at Borella. Ceylon team batted first. At close, Ceylon scored 290 runs for 8 wickets. Top run scorers were David Heyn 69, Michael Tissera 52, Lionel Fernando 48, H.I.K. Fernando 42.
Jan 22 Sunday: 2nd day West Indies vs Ceylon. Ceylon team scored 400 runs. Neil Chanmugam 72 and P. Ian Pieris 48 not out – had 110 runs partnership for the 10th wicket. At close, West Indies had scored 300 runs for loss of 3 wickets. Basil Butcher 100 n.o, Clive Lloyd 114 n.o., Seymour Nurse 19.
Jan 23 Monday: 3rd day West Indies vs Ceylon. West Indies declared at 549 runs for 8 wickets. Highest run scorers were Basil Butcher 151, Clive Lloyd 138, Garfield Sobers 115, Lester King 26 n.o. At close, Ceylon team had scored 163 runs for 3 wickets, in the 2nd innings. Anura Tennekoon 52 n.o and Lionel Fernando 72 n.o. To our disappointment, Conrad Hunte, Rohan Kanhai, Charlie Griffith and wicket keeper Jackie Hendricks didn’t play in this 3 day match.
Feb. 8 Wednesday: went to see Hindi movie ‘Jaanwar’(1965), starring Shammi Kapoor and Rajshree. Cannot understand Hindi, but the songs set by Shankar-Jaikishan were nice to hear.
Feb 16 Thursday: went to Alutgama, with the college cricket team. I had the role of official scorer. Our college team played a one day match with the Alutgama Vidyalaya.
Feb. 24 Friday: attended the music recital of Indian singer M. Balamurali Krishna, held at the Saraswathi Hall. He elaborated Thodi ragam for ragam-thaanam-pallavi. Then, sang two of his popular Tamil movie songs, ‘Oru Naal Pothuma’ (Thiruvilaiyadal movie), and ‘Thanga ratham vanthatu veethiyile’ (Kalai Kovil movie).
Feb 26 Sunday: Sister and I got infected with chicken pox, and for a week we were confined at home. No trip to school.
March 3 Friday: Eelanadu newspaper carried the Carnatic Music exam results. I had passed the 5th grade in flute.
April 6 Thursday: Carnatic Music exam result and my photo appeared in today’s Sun newspaper, under the ‘People in the Sun’ column. My father had arranged it to be placed. This is my first notice in an English newspaper. [postscript by Sachi]: I guess, it was through my uncle K.T. Rajasingham, who was then working as a reporter to the Thinapathi, a Tamil newspaper belonging to the same Dawasa group of the Sun. For those who don’t know, mothers of my mother and Rajasingham’s are siblings.].
April 7 Friday: College closed for 1st term vacation.
April 24 Monday: College re-opened for the 2nd term.
May 3 Wednesday: Attended the music recital of singer T.M. Soundararajan, at Saraswathy Hall. He sang a few Carnatic songs (Vathapi Ganapathim, Telisi Rama), Hindu devotional songs (Ullam uruguthaiya, Velundu vinai theerka, Karpaga vallinil) and his poularTamil movie songs (Sindhu nathiyin misai nilavinile, Poonal Pohatum Poda, Kalyana saapaadu podava, Paadum Naane Paavamum Naane and Nalla Nalla pillaigalai nambi).
May 4 Thursday: went to see MGR movie ‘Thaiku Thalaimagan’, at Eros theatre. It’s not to my taste though.
May 8 Monday: My 14th birthday. It passed silently, without any celebration.
May 16 Tuesday: My first flute performance (for 15 min, in the morning) at the annual Sri Thyagaraja Music Festival, organized by Guruvayoor K.K. Atchuthan. I was accompanied in violin by my tutor T.P. Jesudas. In the evening, I also took part in the Orchestra (for 30 min) in the evening conducted by violinist Mr. P.S. Mani Iyengar.
May: G.C.E. Ordinary Level exam results were released. My performance was disappointing. Had received 4 credit passes (Chemistry, Tamil, Hinduism and Carnatic Music), 2 ordinary passes (Biology and Mathematics) and 2 fails (Physics and English). Father was crest fallen. I was embarrassed, when our English teacher Miss Rani Saverimuttu asked me, ‘Sri Kantha, what happened to your English?’ She had thought that I was one of her bright students, who would perform well. I could only offer a half smile to her, as an answer.
June 12 Monday: For a dance debut (arangetram) performance of one girl Thushita Thirunavukarasu, actor Sivaji Ganesan was the chief guest. I couldn’t go, due to lack of invitation.
November: Disaster happened at home. Mother had dumped my collections of MGR related items (especially the newspaper reports about the January shooting event by M.R. Radha), articles that had appeared in Tamil movie magazines like Bhommai, and few other items) in to the waste bin. I was pissed off by her deed. But, I couldn’t protest strongly.
Dec.: sat for the G.C.E. Ordinary Level exam. Seven subjects I offered were Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Mathematics, Tamil, Hinduism and English.
December (Year roundup): This year has been a ‘wasted year’ for me. Wasted time in watching Tamil (mostly MGR’s old movies) and a few English movies, in matinee shows during week days. Memorable three Hollywood movies I watched this year were, Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ (1960) starring Janet Leigh, Michael Cacoyannis’s ‘Zorba the Greek’ (1964) starring Anthony Quinn, and Sidney Lumet’s ‘The Pawn Broker’ (1964) starring Rod Steiger. ‘Psycho’ was tagged as an ‘Adult’s Only’ film (meaning, only for 18+ audience). Somehow, in short pants, I had sneaked into a matinee at Navah theatre and bragged about it to my friends. I was not asked for any proof of identity for age. Mother was against me for watching English movies. There was friction between us, because of this. She thinks that I am too excited in watching the partially exposed boobs of movie stars, and she did tell me this. She didn’t know that I had seen Thelma Oliver’s frontal splashing shot of bare breasts as a Negro prostitute in front of Rod Steiger, the Pawn Broker. I wouldn’t tell it to her.
Jan 1 Monday: went to see SSR movie ‘Marakka Mudiyuma’ (1966), scripted by M. Karunanidhi.
Jan 2 Tuesday: went to see MGR movie ‘Kavalkaran’ (1967) at the Odeon theatre. This was the 2nd movie released after MGR’s shooting incident. His voice is not up to par. But, MGR carries the movie by his sheer will power.
Jan 19 Friday: Girls were admitted to our college for the first time at the G.C.E. Ordinary Level prep class. Thus, from ‘All Boys school’, college changed into a ‘Mixed school’. I am in the G.C.E. Advanced Level first year class. There were 4 girls in our class: two who smiled at me occasionally were Nirmala Narayanapillai and Mohana Dharmasenan. Though I have a younger sister at home, it has not been easy to talk with girls, in the classroom setting.
Jan 31 Wednesday: designated ‘Shramadana’ day at our college. We did some weeding in the college ground premises.
Feb 25 Sunday: travelled to Badulla by train, to give a flute recital, at Saraswathi Maha Vidyalayam, for Sivarathri vizha. This was arranged by my tutor T.P. Jesudasan. He accompanied me in violin.
Feb 27 Tuesday: returned to Colombo from Badulla.
Mar 12 Tuesday: went to see Sivaji Ganesan movie ‘Saraswathi Sabatham’. Devotional songs are pleasing to ears.
Mar 22 Friday: English teacher Mrs. Lalitha Arnold presented me a German calendar.
April 4 Thursday: At a music festival held at Ladies College Hall, our college participated. I played flute. Mrs. Arnold was pleased with my performance.
We returned by car. I was seated with Mrs. Arnold in the back seat side by side, with my two friends, and to my embarrassment, she kept on complimenting me for my cooperation. I can never forget her words.
May 8 Wednesday: My 15th birthday. It passed silently, without any celebration.
June 12 Wednesday: G.C.E. Ordinary Level results were released, for the exam held in
Dec. 1967. My performance was still disappointing. Had received 4 credit passes (Mathematics, Tamil, Einglish and Hinduism), 3 ordinary passes (Chemistry, Biology and Physics).
June 13 Thursday: I was appointed as a senior prefect for the college. A recognition of some sort.
Oct 31 Thursday: A farewell party was held to Mrs. Arnold. She leaves the college to teach at St. Clares College, Wellawatte.
Jan 2 Thursday: went to see MGR movie ‘Rahasya Police 115’ at Eros theatre. It’s nothing but a James Bond-style movie for Tamil audience.
Jan 3 Friday: School re-opened for New Year. I am in the G.C.E. Advanced Level 2nd year class.
Jan 8 Wednesday: In Tamil Nadu, Nagercoil by-election for Lok Sabha is held today. Kamaraj is contesting in the Congress Party ticket.
Jan 10 Friday: Kamaraj had won the Nagercoil by-election for Lok Sabha with a majority of over 123,000 votes, defeating Dr. M. Mathias of Swatantra Party.
Jan 15 Wednesday: went to the Electronics exhibition held at the Art Gallery. Color television, electronic computers, inter-communication systems and many other electronic appliances were exhibited.
Feb 3, Monday: C.N. Annadurai (Anna), Chief Minister of Madras state died, after a week-long illness. He was 59.
Feb 12 Wednesday: I represented my school in the Inter School Science Quiz contest, held by the Ceylon Broadcasting Corporation. Kethis (captain), I, Jothiraj and Vadivel were the team members. Mr. Kumarasamy (‘Kum’) accompanied us, as chaperon. We lost to St. Josephs College, in a tight battle. Hard luck for us. We won the 1st round 2½ points to 1 point, but eventually lost the contest by 4 points to 3½ points. The two questions I had to answer were based on maths. I failed to give correct answers. I answered a biology question, ‘Why a dog sleeps by circling it’s body frame?’, asked to a fellow team member. But, my answer was judged as an inaccurate one. Participants from other schools, whom I’m acquainted with included,
St. Josephs College: Britto, W. Ravindran.
Ladies College: Vasuki Nadarajah.
Holy Family Convent: Sivaneswari Sabaratnam, Bhavani Armstrong, Shanta Tirunavukarasu.
Royal College: Rajasundaram, Visvaranjan.
St. Thomas College: Selvaratnam, C. Ramachandra, Aingaran
Wesley College: Nevil Ponniah.
Feb. 28 Friday: Hindu devotional singer Pithukuli Murugadas bajan concert was held at Wellawatte Pillaiyar temple. I did attend.
April 3 Thursday’ Carnatic Music Exam results were released. I had failed in the Teacher’s Grade (6th Grade) exam, North Ceylon Oriental Music Society for flute, in the first attempt. Sister Kanchana had passed 3rd Grade exam for violin.
April 13 Sunday: Hindu New Year day. A Hindu ‘saint’ with the name Sithar Thirunavukarasu from Kadirgamam, performed a demonstration of breaking nearly 300 husked raw coconuts, simply by striking the nuts in his forehead. I was an observer. He didn’t show any physical trauma externally, during this demonstration. This was claimed as a fantastic feat by the gathered crowd.
April 15, Tuesday: Celebrated Tamil scholar and orator, Ma Po Sivagnana kiramani [Ma Po Si] delivered a lecture in Tamil. The title ‘Life Practices prescribed in Tamil Literature’. I attended and marveled at the fluency of Tamil verbal pyrotechnics from Ma Po Si’s tongue.
April 17 Thursday: went to see MGR’s movie ‘Chandrothayam’ at Plaza theatre.
May 8 Thursday: My 16th birthday. It passed silently, without any celebration.
May 24 Saturday: Interschool General Knowledge Quiz contest, held at the CBC Auditorium. For the first time, I was the captain of my school. Other members were D.Ravindran, Vadivel and Mylvaganam. In the contest against St. Michael’s College, Polwatte, I answered all the questions and scored all the points for my team. Result was 4½ points to 3½ points, in our favour. The score was draw 3½ points to 3½ points, at the end of two rounds. Thus, it was decided that the captain of both teams should answer the extra decision making question. The question asked was, to name a famous historical poet who composed Sanskrit literature. I answered ‘Kalidasan’. Conductor of the quiz, Mr. K. Poorananantha acknowledged it as the correct answer and our team advanced to 4½ points. A question was asked to the opposing team’s captain, and he failed to answer.
May 25 Sunday: Principal and other friends congratulated me for my success at yesterday’s Quiz contest.
June 1 Sunday: News was received that our school principal Mr. Ambalavanar was interdicted from the job, due to some discrepancies in accounting and failure in submitting receipts.
June 12 Thursday: MGR’s 100th movie ‘Oli Vilakku’ completed it’s 150th day run at Zainstan cinema at Grandpass, Colombo.
June 15 Sunday: This month’s issue of ‘Vanoli Manjari’ (Radio Times) carried a photo of our team, taken during the quiz contest between St.Michael’s, Polwatte and us, in it’s inside back cover. Photo was focused on the conductor of the quiz, Mr. K. Poorananantha. I was seated 4th from left. But, our faces are not clearly visible. (This photo is presented nearby).
July 1 Tuesday: Interschool General Knowledge Quiz contest, held at the CBC Auditorium. For the second time, I was elected to captain our school team.
We lost to Wesley College by ½ point, though I answered 3 questions correctly.
July 7 Monday: Carnatic musician vocalist, Chitoor Subramaniam Pillai from India gave a vocal concert at Saraswathi Hall. I attended. Excellent by standard.
July 16 Wednesday: Man’s first voyage to the Moon. Apollo 11 started from Cape Kennedy at 7:02, Ceylon Time. Crew: Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin and Michael Collins.
July 17 Thursday: India’s prime minister Indira Gandhi dismissed Mr. Morarji Desai (Finance Minister) from his portfolio. Immediately, Desai resigned his position as the deputy prime minister.
July 21 Monday: At 1.48 am (Ceylon Time), Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin brought their lunar module down to the Moon, to become the first men to land in the Moon. At 8.26 am (Ceylon Time), Armstrong stepped into Moon’s surface, thus becoming the first man achieve this feat. He was followed by Aldrin, after 20 minutes. First words of Armstrong were, ‘That’s one small step for a man, but one giant leap for mankind.’
August 11 Monday: Sat for the theory paper for the Teacher’s Grade Carnatic Music exam. An easy paper.
August 27 Wednesday: Practicals (Flute) exam for the Teacher’s Grade Carnatic Music exam. Examiners were N. Shanmugaratnam and Mrs. Parameswary Wijeyaratnam. I was asked to play three items: (1) ‘Ninukori’ varnam in Mohana ragam. (2) ‘Samajavaragamana’ sruthi, in Hindolam ragam. (3) Ragam, Thanam, Pallavi composition in Ritigaula ragam.
Sept. 4 Thursday: School re-opened for the 3rd term.
Sept 11 Thursday: Father met with an accident in front of Bambalapitiya police station, when he was returning from work in a bicycle. Time was 8:30 pm. Luckily, it was not a serious one.
Oct 19 Sunday: Poet Kasi Ananthan visited our school, and gave a talk to students.
Oct 20 Monday: Saraswathi Pooja was celebrated in our school, at the Saraswathi Hall. I gave a flute recital, playing few pieces.
Oct. 23 Thursday: ‘Battle of the Sexes’ debate among High school students took place at the Royal College, from 3 pm. I represented my college. Two teams (males vs. females) debated the topic ‘Is it men or women who should take the lead in family responsibilities?’ There were 5 reps in each team. Males team was represented by Royal College, St. Josephs College, Colombo Hindu College, St. Thomas College and St. Benedict’s College. Females team was represented by Holy Family Convent, St. Lawrence School, Ladies College, Saiva Mangaiyar Vidyalayam (SMV) and Methodist College. This debate was presided by Jayaraman of Royal College. Rep of Royal College who participated is Kumaraswamy Vinothan. For my turn, in emphasizing the importance of males to lead the family responsibilities, I quoted a male chauvinist song of T.M. Soundararajan, that was featured in an SSR movie ‘Magane Kel’ (1965). The Youtube link for this song is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogoEfs6PKqk
For my citation of this song, a girl representing SMV, ripped me sarcastically, stating that I seems to be watching quite many movies. She was my sister’s friend Mallika Indiran. I’m sure, she wanted to ‘prick’ a little, and might have received insider information on my movie craziness. After the debate, we participated in the social get-together. I chose to sit with a few acquainted faces from Holy Family Convent girls – the clique of Nithya Saravanamuthu, Vasanthi Muthukumaru, Padmini Gnanadurai. But, most of the time was spent in silence or in one word responses.
Dec.: Sat for the theory papers of G.C.E. Advanced Level exam [University entrance exam], for the first time, in the Tamil medium. Four subjects were Chemistry, Physics, Botany and Zoology. Of the four, I didn’t do well in the Physics paper.
Feb 4 Wednesday: From news, came to know that Bertrand Russell, British philosopher- mathematician had died, at the age of 97. I have yet to read any of his books, but I want to.
Mar 11 Wednesday: I had passed the Teacher’s grade (6th grade) exam of North Ceylon Oriental Music Society, for flute, in the 2nd attempt.
Mar 22 Sunday: played flute (one kirthanam only for around 4 min.), with violin and mridangam accompaniment at the ‘Siruvar Malar’ (Children programme) of CBC radio.
Mar 24 Tuesday: G.C.E. Advanced Level exam. Calls for ‘Practicals Test’ released. Faced disappointment. I received only calls, for Chemistry and Botany practicals; this meant, I had passed in the theory papers for Chemistry and Botany exams held in Dec 1969. Had failed in Zoology and Physics theory papers. Maybe, I was weak in physics and was a borderline case in the theory paper. But, why I failed in the theory paper in Zoology is a puzzle for me.
April 16 and 17 Thursday and Friday: Sat for entrance exams for the Aquinas University College. Father wanted me to prepare better for the university entrance exams, this December.
Apr 23 Thursday: faced the Chemistry Advanced Level practicals test, at the University of Colombo, Dept. of Chemistry laboratory.
Apr 24 Friday: faced the Botany Advanced Level practicals test, at the University of Colombo, Dept. of Botany laboratory.
My ten year affiliation, from Jan. 1961 with the Colombo Hindu College (Bambalapitiya and Ratmalana) comes to an end now.
May 6 Wednesday: My first day at the then Aquinas University College (now, Aquinas College of Higher Studies), Colombo 8. Quite a few of my friends and acquaintances (of both sexes) from Colombo schools also had joined with me. For the first time, I came to meet students from Jaffna schools as well. Our language medium is Tamil.
May 8 Friday: My 17th birthday. Nothing special to celebrate, because I had failed in zoology and physics at Advanced Level exams, and figuratively had ‘missed the bus’ for university entrance in my first attempt. More than me, my father was disappointed by my poor performance. He had expected me to enter the university, at 17, and the first to enter the university in our immediate paternal and maternal family circles. On the paternal lineage, father had 5 older siblings and as such, I have 7 older cousins (of both sexes). On the maternal lineage, mother had 2 siblings, and I was the eldest among my cousins.
May 15 Friday:Today’s issue of Vanoli Manjari (Radio Times), carried a notice of me, with a photo, under the caption ‘Young artist’. This was placed by my flute tutor T.P. Jesudasan. For this notice, I was asked about my future goals. I had answered, ‘I wish to be a scientist. Nevertheless, I’ll not leave Karnatic Music too.’
May 27 Wednesday: General elections to the Parliament was held. Ruling UNP party was soundly defeated by the SLFP led coalition consisting of LSSP and CP.
May 30 Saturday: Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike assumed PM position for the 2nd time.
Nov. 22 Sunday: Came to know that Sir C.V. Raman, Indian physicist and the first Tamil to be awarded a Nobel prize (for physics) in 1930 had died. I have yet to read what he had written.
Dec.: Sat for G.C.E. Advanced Level exam, the 2nd time, Index No. 73866, in the Tamil medium. This was the last time, this exam will be held under the current format of testing (a) theory, and then (b) practicals.
After the new SLFP government led by Sirima Bandaranaike came to power in last May, this format will be abolished, and from next time G.C.E. Advanced Level exam will be held ONLY in theory format. A new media-wise standardization system was introduced, under the direction of Badiuddin Mahmud, the Minister of Education, for selection of university entrance. This system favoured the Sinhalese medium students and the Muslim students, at the expense of Tamil medium students.
Overall, my academic performance this year was a failure. There were only two plus points in my music activity. The first was, passing the Teacher’s Grade exam. The second was my Third Place win at the Tamil Music Competition in the Instrumental category (Flute), conducted by the Ceylon Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). Even this placing was a disappointment for my tutor T.P. Jesudasan. He admonished me that, during the examination, I had ‘lost my nerve’ and didn’t perform to his expectation. Maybe, he was correct. I received a merit certificate (a photo of this certificate, presented nearby) and a photo album. Kindly check the contents of the merit certificate. It states, ‘Tamil Music Competition’, in only Sinhalese and English languages. Where is Tamil language? That was the status of Tamil language in that Sirimavo Bandaranaike regime.
Regular diary writing habit infected me from 1971 onwards. Until 1986 (a fifteen year period, spanning my undergraduate and graduate periods in Colombo, Peradeniya and Illinois) I continued to keep diaries, describing my activities, first in Tamil (from 1971 to 1980) and then switched to English (from 1981 to 1986). These will be revisited at a later time.
When I began scribbling the above noted diary entries, more than 55 years ago, I was clueless about how long I will live. Now, I look forward to reaching the Biblical span of ‘three scores and ten’, in coming May. Considering the fate of my teenage period European role model Anne Frank, I consider myself lucky. I have to be thankful for the genetic blessing given by my parents and for divine munificence. For male babies born in 1953 in the then post-independent Ceylon, I found out that the life expectancy was 58 years. Now that I had lived eleven more years exceeding my life expectancy, I am also thankful to the health services of Japan (the country of my domicile since 1986) and to my immediate family of three women – wife Saki and two daughters Sachiko and Sangita.
It is not a good habit to read other’s diary, but Dr. Sachi wrote a clean diary readable by anyone! When I read the diary entries, I felt de ja vu about all the movies he saw and winning prizes in contests even though my achievements are not comparable to him. The MGR poster he shared deserves to part of MGR Museum in Chennai!
All mothers say this, “Will your MGR come and feed you, if you don’t study?”, but still, we always love to sneak to see his movies and of course Sivaji movies. I too watched a lot of Hindi Movies without understanding them, but purely for songs and grandeur of Hindi Movies of those days, later when lived in Hyderabad I picked up the language and enjoyed them all over again.
Overall, thanks to Dr. Sachi for facilitating a journey down my memory lane too!