Thanks to the Daily News which carried the article titled “56 entrants to the University of Ceylon celebrate 50th anniversary”, there was a stream of calls from the group of 56 offering their grateful thanks of refreshing their memories and the honour bestowed. Almost a year has passed since the 56 group celebrated the event at Peradeniya.Chandra and Beatrice reminding me of the great day almost simultaneously put the question, “Are we not continuing it this year? Next person to inquire was Shiva looking forward for the next. Metta was reminiscing it at the old girl’s get together. Padmini and Winnie from UK are still others to be added to this list. Hence this brief article is to commemorate the memorable day of August 20, 2006.
The idea of university education is an outcome of imperialism. The university became the symbol of higher education of the elite in the Colonial era. It was inaugurated in Colombo, the capital city.
The person behind this great edifice was Sir Ivor Jennings, a shining example of an intellectually gifted genius in the academic world. The early 50s saw the transferring of the seat of the university to Peradeniya – a nature’s gift. Ivor Jennings who pioneered the establishment of this esteemed institution and the gifted Architect, Shirley de Alwis, who beautified the place made a tremendous contribution in this sphere.
One can see for themselves the vision of the creator once they step into the campus for its vastness, facilities and the scenic splendour.
History has accorded in the due place as the educational visionary who first introduced the new innovations. It was when it was at the height of her glory that the group of 56 was blessed with their admission to the university.
Enchanted by the scenic beauty and encouraged by the atmosphere, they settled down and devoted their time to studies enjoying all the benefits to be very brief. Four long years passed in this manner.
It was hard work filled with joy. Feeling of time meaningfully and well-spent was in their minds when they departed after graduation. We still have pleasant recollections of our stay at Peradeniya.
There was a closely-knit group of friends whose friendship continues even up to this day. It is with great pride that we recall the good old days.
Back to the grand occasion – thanks to Somasundram, the key negotiator popularly and affectionately known as Jolly. He sent a rallying call to the batch-mates of 56 and played a key role in getting the group 56 together.
They should be truly proud of him for the fine opportunity provided. The trip to Peradeniya was quite a success. It had been well planned the thrill of entering the premises was beyond expression.
It gave great pleasure to think of the glorious past the scenic splendour of flowering trees, well laid out gardens, the panoramic Hantana hills were refreshing our memories.
The other places of interest, the arts theatre, the senate building, gymnasium and the library still reflect the past glory the shady curved kissing bend, the one time women’s halls were the same in external appearance.
On arrival at the ‘Lodge’ the most impressive was the rousing welcome we received from those around Kandy. Soon we got to know one another. It was a case of giving self-introductions with a touching handshake.
The day was packed with commemorative events. We posed for a photograph treasured by every one. A delicious lunch was served. A sing-song party followed. It will always remain a memorable event for all those who were present.
The other most remarkable event to mark the occasion was the souvenir “And quietly flows the Mahaweli” compiled by Jolly, dedicated to the then iron Vice Chancellor Sir Nicholas Attygale.
The publication exclusively deals with the nostalgic memories and the reminiscences of the 1956 entrants who have rightly described the services it has rendered, their gains and achievements with their interesting episodes.
I am sure the souvenir is indeed a treasure for those who wish to renew the past memory that alone is precious one to remember the day. Thanks to Jolly for the jolly day given to us looking forward to the next.
– Rupa BANDUWARDENA