RISE AND FALL OF ANANDA
Posted on April 16th, 2017

By  Gomin Dayasri    (reproduced from the 125th edition of Ananda College centenary magazine released two weeks ago)

When I entered Ananda in 1952 it had earned a reputation of producing a list of students (then published in the Daily News) entering the different faculties of the Ceylon University that needed a foot ruler to measure. Ananda was known to send the largest contingent to the University and perennially won the Herman Loos shield for the best platoon.  No more distance did Ananda travel in those days of rickshaws and trams.

Ananda won fame bringing students from Burma and substantially from the schools of the North of old Ceylon. Ironically, the distinguished old boys of that era rarely sent their progeny to the old school: as there were no berths for Anandians in many private sector establishments. The reason was elementary: in the minds of those that mattered, Ananda did not have a “pedigree” that branded it an elite public school, when it was prestigious to walk a dog at the Colombo Kennel Club, men wore tails and red bands to sip soup at Queens House and officers in the Defense Services found their hazardous assignment was to go on parade

In a nutshell, Ananda did not fall in line with the values that were treasured by the immediate post-colonial society with its labyrinthine old boy networks from other schools. Eminent old boys of Ananda often loathed disclosing their school identity in fear of being thought inferior. In that topsy-turvy social ladder, to be a planter or tea taster brought more glory than being a banker or accountant. Yet Anandians reached dizzy heights through higher education and often reached the hall of fame in the ‘jewel of the crown’ appointments in the prestigious Ceylon Civil Service (CCS) and the learned professions.

I remember a few distinguished old boys (including Presidents of the OBA), did, in my time, sent their kids to the old school but soon transferred them to St. Thomas’ or Trinity in fear of foul contamination. Fortunately my father  was a Trinitian and had his education abroad, loathed the colonial system and was the first civil servant to don the  national dress to office and was adamant that his son is a product of a Sinhala Buddhist orientation. My mother sobbed late into that night for the stupidity of enrolling me at a ‘yako’ school and was taunted by her family of Thomians, since it lowered in their wonky esteem by having a family member from a school where the “boys” [mispronounced] were mocked for ‘eating the five cent gram and travelling by tram’.

Half a century later, traveling down memory lane, I owe most in life to my peers at Ananda who taught me a value structure that enabled me to advance in life in a transforming, turbulent Sri Lanka; more than what I learnt at home. Sadly among my close friends today, very few are Anandians, but those from other schools that once mocked us. Those old differences have now paled into insignificance. War and Cricket, significantly Sri Lanka’s twin claims to fame during the period of terrorism, have reduced schools to a level far less important than the nation. For people who matter the old school tie has no relevance. The past belonged to an era when school Big Matches attracted bigger crowds than visiting foreign cricket teams and Ananda and Nalanda held fame as the sister schools that produced most International players at cricket. Things are no more the same.

What fired our generation at Ananda was a combination of a home/school environment. Decent Sinhala Buddhist homes where culture and values were prime characteristics; parental care and family life was a predominant factor; education was the prime goal sought; people cared for the society they habituated. Add to this the inspiration received from the in-house pedagogues- Ven Kotagama Vachissara, mascot of Ananda in my time where his word was the sacred gospel; Panikkar (Science), Weeraratne (Mathematics), Thanabalsingham (English Literature), J.R.P. Suriyapperuma (Government) – all legends in their spheres, even though at times over-rated and exaggerated by schoolboy enthusiasm. Principals of that era Mettananda (trend-setter in the Sinhala Buddhist renaissance) Wijayatilake (a superlative exponent in public speaking in English) Karunananda (pioneer in the teaching of science in Sinhala) were national figures, their wisdom expressed in the prize day reports were gems inspiring editorial themes in the national newspapers. They were household names beyond boundaries.

In recent times with reluctance, and at the insistence of old boys, appeared in shame to represent, principals in matters concerning their own questionable discipline.  I tried a dodge by stating there are so many Anandians who are Presidents Counsel and I carried no such honor, which notion was dismissed outright. Today’s teachers do not have that same legendary status. I silently weep when introduced to some of today’s teachers at school functions while I still bow low to my old school teachers in deep reverence. On retirement, old teachers grow in esteem. Look at any function – around whom do old students rally to revere? Teachers that instilled discipline into us

We as underdogs were determined to be the top dogs. We knew we had the stuff and stamina to peak though we lacked style and sophistication. It was not my generation that brought Ananda to great heights. The next generation reached the summit in the days of Principal Rajapaksa  – he thrived on the laurels of the past and forged ahead. Rajapaksa became the fortunate recipient of a firm foundation built by those named greats: the men who held his office in the past. Thereafter it has been a steady decline and in my analysis the rise and fall of Ananda had much do with the head of the institution. It is the head that carries a school on his shoulders – in times good and bad – with the staff beside him. The wheel indeed had turned with Rajapakse.

We were a generation that knew not of Apple and Reebok; I Pad or I Pod but survived on linseed oil to season bats and catgut to string racquets. We did not have a ground or pavilion (shared with Nalanda), swimming pool (St Joseph’s) or gymnasium (wide open spaces next to the work shop). Yet our schoolboy heroes such as Yatagama Amaradasa, Sarath Wimalaratne and the Wettimuni brothers led national schoolboy cricket teams that included at least four of the playing members from Ananda and trounced Indian schools. The Marks brothers with Germanic antecedents, Geoff and Boris, won the “pubs” at swimming and water polo; the Jayasuriya brothers carried the Stubbs at boxing; the Tarbat Cup for athletics was ours with Vijitha Wijesekera (track/field and hurdles) and Sarath Wijesinghe (throwing events); we won the Jefferson in relays with G.N. de Silva anchoring the last lap; Gamini Weerasinghe and Pundarika Perera saw us emerge as winners in tennis; and the former’s brother Neil saw us through at table tennis – both brothers being coached by a keen mother; and the teacher in charge A.D. Karunananda saw us overwhelm other schools to win at badminton annually. As Rajapakse said ‘It was Ananda First, that mattered”.

The Principal’s room had a glass case that displayed a collection of silver that was priceless. It was designed only to hold cadetting shields and was heavily over-loaded with the other fields over-powering cadetting In debating (Sinhala or English) and Quizzes/Spelling Bees we led the pack and emerged as winners or runners-up; the names of Buddhadasa Bodinayake  Mahipala Udabage and Manik Nagahawatte come to mind. Our teachers, not our parents, were our inspiration and to them was our dedication. My schoolmates and teachers applauded our achievements, fired us with zeal and zest to reach out for the greater glory in the name of the school.

Where have all those trophies gone with that cupboard now virtually empty and bare? Yet, the college now proudly holds assets – in a swimming pool, gymnasium, indoor courts, a stadium with a scoreboard and a terraced pavilion along with well-paid coaches and trainers and an air – conditioned auditorium. Those boys won accolades then, were lads, strong in mind and body. Quality Controllers necessary were in the staff room; now lacking though the present boys have guts, nerve, spirit and more to spare. It’s the conditioning, they lack – we had a surfeit of it from our teachers.

In other respects is Ananda becoming another school without bondage?  In the old days personal factors were not a competing feature; it was for the school that mattered and we did “all-together”, to proudly proclaim- “A/N/A/N/D/A- Ananda”-twice over. Joy and glory were shared as we wore the same maroon and gold tie. My glory was their glory and applauded with all my might- when my peers pushed my school to the forefront. Thankful for the opportunity to contribute to this magazine as there was a time I was deemed insufficient in comparison to others from whom articles were requested. Green eyes were unknown those days.

My parents were otherwise heavily occupied, knew little about what I did at school and were mildly pleased that their son had secured a place in Peradeniya’s law faculty. After my first attempt, before the results were released, they persuaded me to join a foreign owned tea plantation under a Scottish pukka-sahib. Such were the times, Anandians were an unknown commodity in the plantations. Those ‘white’ members at the old Uva Club in 1963 snorted at the bar hearing the word “Ananda” mocking it to be a night school Fortunately University results came in 9 months. Most members of the plantations are some of my dearest friends- no one wears school ties any more.

Up in Peradeniya (where a different mode of artificiality prevailed) found every rag-leader was an Anandian. Such were the controls acquired at the campus by the numerical strength of Anadians in 1964. They knew of me and saved me of rag hazards by chasing me away with an overdose of filth. They told me later how it was organized to save marked men in Peradeniya. No wonder I owe so much to Anandians of my time. Such was the brotherhood.

Our ambition was to win keeping with the college motto, of not delaying it for too long. So we strived harder and win we did. In sports, there was sadly a touch of gamesmanship where our winning mattered: in studies it was the hard slog to be the front-runner. We imported the best of talent from our sister colleges and molded that talent to achieve greatness using the drive produced by our teachers.

The true test of an Anandian in a nutshell reads – “whether he is your senior/junior, a predecessor/successor, if he is from the old school follow his career relentlessly and take pride in his achievements as a reflected glory of your old school”. We all share in the pride of being Anandians.

My advice to the coming generations of Anandians is to “Hold your head high. Don’t bend or bow. Harness your skills as there is no substitute for hard work to achieve greatness.” The pride of Ananda will gather glory as long as at its head is a respected learned man dedicated to the college as those in the past to whom, let me pay homage “You did it for us, kind teachers. We benefitted. You did not, except in the pleasure in seeing what we have achieved!”

5 Responses to “RISE AND FALL OF ANANDA”

  1. Dilrook Says:

    A timely article.

    Ananda has indeed risen and fallen. It symbolises the comparative rise and fall of Buddhist learning and achievements of the nation. Though I had no love for Ananda as a schoolboy, I do realise the need to revive Ananda and other centres of Buddhist learning. Ananda and other Buddhist schools must be provided with superior teaching in English medium, more resources and certainly expanded space. Year 5 scholarship exam should be the sole criteria to enroll students to the next grade anew and not politics.

    Disproportionately large funds allocation to northern schools by successive governments since 1990s is also to blame for the relative fall of Buddhist learning centres.

    It is true few Anandians want to enroll their sons in Ananda. None of my Ananda friends have their sons in Ananda. Therein is the national service of Ananda. It is an institution that generally elevates communities from a relatively lower strata to a higher one. This itself is enough reason to uplift Ananda to its former glory. It is a tough act when the society contributes more resources to international schools than to all public schools combined.

    Ananda is to Sri Lanka as California’s GDP to USA, North-Rhine’s economy to Germany, Gampaha District to the SLFP and a number three batsman to a cricket team. Fortunes of Ananda are tied to the fortunes of Sri Lanka.

  2. Ananda-USA Says:

    If I could choose to relive my youth, and choose an institution for my schooling, I would choose to be an Anandian.

    This is not because I love my own alma mater any less, but because I love more what Anandians have done for our country by helping to win the Eelam war, when our motherland needed us the most!

    Anandians answered that call to duty by Mother Lanka in full measure, in their hundreds. Eternal glory and honor are theirs to treasure!

    Colonel Henry Steel Olcott and Ven. Sri Sumangala Thero would be proud of what the students of their creation, their premier Buddhist school, have achieved!

    Appamado Amathapadan!

  3. Nimal Says:

    People must remember and appreciate that these great schools for the Buddhist population was built by the last British Colonials which dismiss the utterly stupid myth of divide and rule by them. These stupid myths were created by our ambude clad Gandhi and SWRD who had the best of education in UK and they dearly paid for their stupidity with their lives.
    Young Indian tourists who just finished a late breakfast with me totally agree with me.They are all from the IT backgrounds working in India, on a short visit as tourists and I urged them to observe the discipline of our motorists who never tooted the horn, drove with patience and respect for other road users.That tell much about the culture.
    Coming back to the school mentioned above.There was a son of a principal of ether of Annanda or Nalanda,one Methalanda who was a senior to us at the CMS collage Kotte,first known proper school in SL built in 1822.He was a bigot who caused lot of trouble for all of us. We were wondering why he could not study in his father’s school. By the way I never stayed more than any school for more than 2 years, always challenging any stupidity in the schools.

  4. Ratanapala Says:

    I have met many a Anandian, Nalandian and many more from the Buddhist Schools that came into being during Col Olcott / Anagraika Dharmapala times.

    I found it strange that I could ‘meet’ only a few, who had an affinity for the values that Col Olcott and Anagarka Dharmapala would have loved to see from those schooled from these educational institutions. The most disappointing trait was their readiness to follow everything that is Royal / Thomain / Trinity – literally all western values – a kind of dog like devotion to their ways and manners. Beginning with ‘big matches’, old boy organizations, get-togethers and famously dinner-dances, where they blindly followed the ethos of Royal / Thomas / Trinity and St Bridgets et al. They hardly had any pride for their country, history, culture or even Buddhism.

    Immitating Royalists, Thomians and Bridgetians, they became Anandian and Nalandians and with difficulty Dharmapalians, Dharmasokians and Dharmarajians and Visakians!
    They have made a mockery of the personalities of Maha Arahath Ananda, Anagarika Dharmapala – later Ven Devamitta or Great Emperor Dharmasoka, with hardly any reverence with these appellations.

    Most of these would love to enter, even uninvited or from the back doors if possible a Royal / Thomian get together or dinner /dance just to hob nob and be seen with the ‘right crowd’ or just to sit and speak ‘English’! The situation was much worse from those who came through the Central Colleges. Their dog like devotion to anything that is Royal , Thomian and the like was downright demeaning. Their inability to relate to ordinary people is astounding!

    Karl Marx said – Petit Bourgeoisie or the Lower Middle Class are the most reactionary – meaning reluctant to identify with common values and readiness to fight tooth and nail for the values of the ‘upper classes’ and on their behalf. Having transited from the lower strata they will fight tooth and nail to keep their newly acquired social status while aspiring to climb up the ladder to Upper Middle Class, hook or by crook! Thus they become foot soldiers of the upper classes. Some are successful in this unholy venture and now can be seeing hobnobbing among Champaign Circles as nouveaux riche!

    In learned circles, many having studied sciences would venture to explain Buddhism through Science and not vice versa. Others are more comfortable discussing cricket, golf and other sports scores and statistics rather than any matter that is to do with our beleaguered Motherland or Buddhism. Even if they do their loyalties are with those who aspire for bogus democracy and human rights ventures of these classes and bankrupt politicians. They are ready for the dissolution of Sri Lanka as a means to end minority demands so that they can maintain their social standing! For those who have come up in life, they have no sympathy for those they have left behind!

    Their goals in life are to send their children to Royal, St Thomas or Catholic / Christian schools or convents or the so called International Schools, live in a walled concrete ‘castle’ immune and blind to the vicissitudes of those who are less ‘fortunate’! Some have married into Christian families with gusto – a sign of cosmopolitarianship, and their progeny are all Christian and Buddhist hating!

    Very good examples are Vickramabahu and Rajitha Senaratne to name only a few both product so Ananda! The fall of Ananda and similar is now in-built into these institutions having suffered a deadly blow with the school take over, inability of the Buddhist public to maintain them and Badiuddeen Mohammeds educational changes in the sixties!

  5. Nimal Says:

    Ratnapala
    A.Daramapala also studied at St Thomas and Christian collage kotte(1822).I did not observe any hate for Budhists from the Christians or from the colonials, if so why was the colonial Ceylon flag had a dagaba and an elephant. In fact they rescued the Sinhalese and their main religion from the Dravidan rule.We have gone back in history by going into Devales which had nothing to do with Budhisum.Buddaha never encouraged worshiping a god.Some people just can’t going back to the Dravidian culture and this was what VP was saying as well to put a claim to the whole country.

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