Serendipity through lifelong friendship
Posted on September 15th, 2010

Philip Fernando, former Deputy Editor, Sunday Observer, Sri Lanka

The Peradeniya campus nestling amidst the picturesque hills got etched in our memories instantly. A feast of colour from the blossoming Jacaranda trees by the library and lectures halls seemed fittingly ornamental. Bonding occurred mostly at random – the matches just happened – with no time to ask the obvious questions: Are you a party animal? Do you shower by habit? Are you bent on using your roommate’s belongings? Yes – we knew soon enough.
Some commingled relentlessly! A select few climbed Hantana hills ostentatiously feigning Sir Hilary’s Himalayan poise – some of course, were blatantly more amorous. A memorable one-liner heard after many such hikes was-“the hunk and the show-off did not always get the girl.”
Others felt it was like doing a long train journey: some got in and out hurriedly, many stayed put for too long, others were smitten with love and a diminutive few were held back.
Almost all were immersed in the melting pot of dreams – a seemingly idyllic setting.
It was also a fact that there was a vast, benign category of friends with whom we could not interact fully, but they still constituted a comforting background chorus. We were blessed to have met them – the A Hall buddies.

We hit the books but…

It was a place where we hit the books but also learnt not to judge books by the looks of the covers. We disagreed, squabbled, took sides and still lived to tell it all.


We had reservations, doubts and grimaced trying to ward off Et tu Brute back stabbings – popularly called ‘undering’.
But such co-existence at times with snarly and moody allies readied us for the working world. Sometimes friends were outlandishly cantankerous over minor matters.
Others sneered, scowled and frowned – but somehow weathered the hullabaloo and remained friends still.
We debated frequently and covetously-why the adoringly daintiest maids always fell for the seemingly least desirable of suitors: The winners became the public enemy number one of those who loved and lost or even never dared to love.
The few philosophically pondered as to why the Incas were extinct? Those inclined to woo two girl friends simultaneously never failed to quote Darwin that diverse strains would promote survival of the species. But girls never fell for that baloney.
There were unforgettable archetypes of the ‘dressed to kill’ – only a very few could afford at the campus. We learnt to tolerate the overly dramatic, self-absorbed or plain and even the seemingly naive-mockingly tagged the ‘jokers.’
Some fell in love with future life partners the very first time they met – they all adorned the passing parade.
If only meandering Lover’s Lane by the Mahaveli streamlet had its say we would write an epic lovers’ tale.
Others promised to be the ‘over-achievers’ of the future-motivated but hassled, quixotic yet idealistic.
Some had cultivated looks behind which were impish minds, ever ready to pull a leg or two. Some got singed i.e. the romantically inclined who fell for the parading charm. Others got the boot, ignominiously labelled the jilted.
Others had a messianic fervour bordering on egomania. They abhorred everything that was considered trivial.
Some eschewed sports, the movies and everything that smacked of romance. These were taboo because the overriding goal was success at the exams.

Rejection of cloning

Personality clashes in all its exuberance rejected the notion of a cordon of clones being sought as friends. Nowadays US students use web sites like URoomSurf, or RoomBug to make matches to ensure compatibility – why we don’t know.
Then we didn’t care. A tiny few may have sought matching horoscopes though.
Sociological studies seem to indicate that some carry the burden of memory and history while wearing masks to hide them. As we befriended each other and took time to help heal their pain we climbed a notch or two in our own growth process.
Relationships built you up and made you grow, even the unhealthy ones (eventually).
We reconnected with a deeper understanding of ourselves and realizing who we were.
It was a noble thing, but in a friendship or partnership, the only way to be truly healthy would be when two people aligned together to mutually strengthen both.
Relationships created new lives in the people involved. Conflict was unavoidable, but even the aftermath of it, provided the unlocking of hidden trait for the better.
I will end on a funny note: once coming home we hitched a ride from a stranger at Peradeniya and were ambushed by ‘bandits’ hired to seize and take the car whose owner had defaulted on payments. Three of us had to bus our way home – the comically wacky episode left us dejected but we laughed it off.
At times those who befriended us brought back a treasure trove of memories of years gone by and eventually our kids had become friends: the second generation bonding. Serendipity has arrived.
We left the campus feeling competent-quite brashly ready to battle the windmills – we viewed the world through lenses tinted with associations and emotional responses that had tested us to the utmost.



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