The history of Kingswood is a history made of “moments”. Kingswood’s history is not a glorification of “achievements” as such. Kingswood, on the “achievements” list is an under-performer. Royal and Trinity may have “Bradby” to speak of; and how their guys have gone on to wear national colours in many a field. Royal and St. Thomas’ play the “Roy-Tho Blue”: the oldest Big match known to the island. Their alumni fill many a chair in many a sphere. Top politicians, top company CEOs, top diplomats. And so on.
No wonder the country is where it is today. Anyways 🙂
Kingswood, by inception, falls into that “old school tie” category — the Royal, Thomian, Trinitian bracket: the Missionary “elite” slate. The “Buddhistic” correspondent to these include Ananda, Nalanda, Mahinda and Dharmaraja. Indeed, there was a time when Kingswood could chargd a school fee that was twice the rate at Trinity. In a non-streamlined era, Kingswood was ready to offer a syllabi that could justify the fees it charged as early as 1908.
But, then, Kingswood was later to suffer in the want of trustees and overseers. That is how she came under the direct mandate of the Wesleyan mission; and much later, in 1958, the State. Even by 1960, Kingswood was a fairly young community with a population of about 700. The old traditions and Blaze’s word were god and gospel. The school authorities had direct control over her affairs and could have arbitration over admissions, appointments and the like. But, all this was to change in Kingswood’s post 1960 order of “things”.
The State take-over of this institution meant that the State regulations and mandate had to be the defining orders of the school. And the State was a far removal from Blaze. Gradually, the Sinhala medium took over and the English stream which — over the years — was the key asset of Kingswood’s multicultural and multi-lingual numbers has altogether abolished. The quota-based admissions, with time, totally changed Kingswood’s face. In the optimum socialist sense, Kingswood was “democratized”. But, this “democratization” — quite luckily — did not do away with some of the traditions and peculiarities of the school.
People who look at Kingswood say that the “worst” period of the school was the post-Lanerolle era: the mid 1960s to the mid 1980s. Though I can’t vouch for these public sentiments, many of my friends from that time attribute a massive “fall” in Kingswood’s standards in this twin decade: specially, in the school’s “discipline”, for which she, even today, gives a damn or two. I remember how Prof. Thiru Kandiah — my dear professor from campus –, the pride of a Thomian rattling his old long bones, told me how a bunch of Kingswoodians had thrown a stone at his car in the late 60s, while on the Peradeniya-Kandy main road.
However, the point I started this piece was with a reference to Kingswood’s history: which is a history of “moments” and “experience”; than it not being necessarily a history of “achievement”. What I mean by this abstract is that Kingswood has not had produced a 100 national Cricketers; or a bagful of educationists. But, that Kingswood’s “history” or the “resonance of its culture” is something that would be known only to and be shared only by Kingswoodians alone. It is more a spiritual sense — something that you may / can experience; but, that cannot be relaid. No wonder, any old boy of any school will tell me the same about their own alma mater. But, I know that that is not true. I know that in Kingswood alone it is true. I know cos I KNOW.
Yesterday, over a matter related to the housing scheme in which I am lodged, I had to meet the President of the scheme’s “security issues”: a guy whom I had not met before. Five minutes into conversation, we figured out that both of us were Kingswoodians — 17 years apart. Now, something familiar happened: a thing that has happened many times before, when you meet an un/familiar Kingswoodian. Here was the guy, easily a decade and 3/4 my senior, hitherto unknown and some stud in a NGO. But, in no time we were talking about Kingswood and was relating to its ups, downs, its definitions, limitations and the works. Another “informed” Kingswoodian, who is conscious of the school’s worth.
He spoke of Upul Sumanasekara (Cricket captain, 1986), Mangala Dharmaprema and the like — his contemporaries. I could very well relate to them, as I know of both through their reputation. We spoke of Kathiresu (Senior Prefect, 1987) and of how the school has been faring for the past decade or so. He could speak for the ES Liyanage era and the times of Nihal Herath; and me being from the Rambukwella-Chandrasekara era, we could have a lively discussion of how things have changed and as to where things seem to be heading.
We spoke of Cricket, and he could relate to Buddhika Ekanayake (“Unga”: Cricket and School Captain in 1997) and Rohan De Silva (Former President of the Kingswood Union, Kandy). When we spoke, one thing was evident: that, though less frequently interactive with the old place, that we both had a lively passion for Kingswood and that we were sincere. It was a passion as to “what can be done? What can be avoided?” and as to whether Kingswood is coping up well — with or without us.
It is there that I, for the first time in my life, could actually put into a sentence what I have laid out before you at the outset of this piece: “Kingswood’s history is a history of moments and of experience” I told him. “It is a thing only known to and can be shared by Kingswoodians”. A family thing, per se.
He, Mr. Attygale, added how the “brotherhood” and the “aiya-malli” bond still works among Kingswoodians even in administrative levels: how the Kingswoodian goes out the long mile to get a thing done for another Kingswoodian. Sometimes, the two may not know each other, but the bare fact that they are from Kingswood makes one go the extra haul. To add to that is how ardently Kingswoodians are known to feel for one another — irrespective of being close or not. Guys who seldom regard you during school days, often, well with ardent tears when you meet them now: a good 6-7 years after.
Last week, at the Big Match, I was on my way out, when I bumped into “Raja” (BDB Rajakaruna, who was in my class from Year 1-5; then, in 6D and from 7-11 in the ‘B’ class). I just met the guy for the first time since passing out in 2003. Nor had we had any intimate tie since Year 5. But, Raja was quite overcome at meeting me after a long long time. Quickly, he summoned some of the other guys who were in the vicinity: Sanjaya Bandara, CNB Abeykoon among them. None of them had been my close friends while at college; yet, they were more than hi5s to see me after a 6 year intermission. Then, from a distance came A.D. Thushan Felix Silva, a flag in his hand, hair all bushy: to throw in a few words of his own. These, I gaged, were not mere words of the curious inquirer; but, a vaguely apparent, half-hidden kind of sincere tone was sitting on top of the words that were thrown to and fro.
The “brotherhood” Mr. Attygale refered to is true and sound. It is actually a hallmark of Kingswood activity. Rather, it is THE history the school may boast of. Without a blemish.