|According to Tilak
Fernando, a London based correspondent of Lankaweb, the latest vogue amongst
the Srilankan women living in London is the "I-was-with-Chandrika-club"
or as Tilak puts it: "London's a stage for Sri Lankans, and many Lankan
women play only one part - 'I was with Chandrika at St.Bridget's.'
I am not aware if there
is a similar club amongst the men folk
the "I-was-with Ranil-club"
but if so I would like to join in. As regular readers of the MadPage would know I did associate with Ranil during
my University days. I was a Medical student and Ranil was from the Law Faculty.
Since Ranil liked to associate with the elite (i.e. Medics) it was more of a
case of "Ranil-was-with-US!" but now that he is relatively famous (and we are
not) we are happy to say that we were with Ranil!
benefit of non-Srilankan readers Chandrika is the lady President of Srilanka
and Ranil the leader of the opposition.)
CHANDRIKA, RANIL AND MYSELF
This of course set me thinking. Imagination is a
powerful tool and what if Chandrika, Ranil and myself had been to the same
As I remember it, I was a rather
studious boy in short trousers, unruly hair and wore muddy shoes. I couldn't
help being studious or at least pretending to be studious because both my
parents were schoolteachers, but Chandrika was extremely studious and always
sat in the front row. Ranil was not very good at studies but was a bit of a
hell raiser and likeable. He had an eye for the girls.
I can remember Chandrika well. Her father was of
course Solomon Bandaranaike the Prime Minister at that time and the teachers
bent over backwards to assist Chandrika. I often wondered how she managed to
get better grades than myself
can almost see her in her starchy, neat little white pleated school uniform,
red tie, white socks and Bata tennis shoes. She wore her long hair in a
ponytail tied with a red ribbon, wore thin-rimmed spectacles and carried a
brightly coloured tin lunchbox.
had rather unflattering nicknames for each other of course but somethings from
the past are better left un-exhumed!
POKE IN THE EYE
eraser was always attached to her pencil by a string. Sitting behind her in
class I would often tie the string to her desk. Chandrika would turn around and
poke me in the eye. Girls were pretty vicious those days. We once tried to
smuggle in a frog into class with the intention of placing it inside
Chandrika's desk but the frog escaped, jumped on to the teacher's desk and she
(the teacher) and half a dozen girls ran out of the class screaming. Chandrika
remained calm and collected. She just turned around and poked me in the
She showed all the signs of a
future leader even in those days. Chandrika always used big words and in fact I
picked up the classical Sinhala description of torrential rain-"Dhara
Nipatha"- from her. When our teacher read out a passage from a Sunday
newspaper Chandrika would be highly critical and would launch into a tirade.
Ranil's family of course owned the newspapers. I remember Chandrika
saying that if she had her way she would nationalise all the newspapers.
Lake House Publishers then controlled most of the newspapers.
Chandrika always put herself forward to chair
committees. In later years I can remember the time our teacher created The
Literary Union. We were teenagers by this time and I was trying to grow my
hair like The Beatles. Even before the teacher had outlined the purpose of the
union Chandrika had offered her services as President. Nobody dared oppose her
except Ranil. Ranil of course had absolutely no idea what it was all about but
decided to oppose Chandrika on principle. Needless to say that Chandrika was
elected. I was elected the secretary, unopposed, mostly because I had decent
handwriting and could spell reasonably well. Chandrika took full control of the
proceedings of the Union from the very outset. In a way she was the President,
secretary and the membership of the Union. At the very start she expelled
troublemakers including Ranil. I survived as secretary but it was a close run
thing. In retrospect I think that she was rather fond of me although she never
showed it at that time.
the time she smacked me on the head for writing my own mad version of the
minutes of The Literary Union which, to put it mildly, was highly jazzed up! In
them I repeatedly referred to her as "Her Royal Highness!" The boys
enjoyed it and fell about laughing. Chandrika sat calmly through it all. When I
had finished reading out the minutes she got up and smacked me in the head. She
then sat down. Although she smacked me I think she was secretly pleased.
A lot of water has flown under the bridge since
then. The last time we met she mentioned this incident over a cup of tea. By
this stage she was of course the President of Srilanka and I must say
that it was with considerable trepidation that I turned up at "Temple Trees"
her official residence, in a hired dilapidated Toyota Hi-Ace.The van had a
dodgy accelerator cable and belonged to my friend Sumanasiri. I was on holiday
in Srilanka. I wore a dark suit; totally
unsuitable for the clime and clutching my "invite" I turned up well before the
appointed time. By the time I got there I was sweating like a steam engine. I
polished my shoes one last time with my handkerchief. I mopped my brow with the
same handkerchief. Her AK 47 carrying guards gave me the once over and checked
my passport but I wasn't afraid of them.
It is funny how childhood experiences can change
your outlook on life. The AK 47s didn't bother me at all but I fully
expected to get poked in the eye or smacked in the head any
She is still quite
formidable I must say. I am much taller than she is but felt about five foot
one. She was of course pleased to see me after a lapse of 20 years, greeted me
warmly and said something to the effect that she was pleased to note that I was
doing well in life
I must admit it was nice to meet her again.
Eventually I picked up enough courage
and asked her if she remembered the "Bulto" incident and she laughed,
patted me on the shoulder and said "Gyan, what a naughty boy you were then!" I
blushed! Ahh....! The memories of yester year.
Without realising it I wiped a tear from my eye.
The right one. She always poked my left eye.
It was hot but
I was not sweating anymore.
I rather diplomatically refrained from mentioning
Ranil.There was no need to spoil a happy occasion. They never really liked each
other which is rather sad. It would be nice if they could settle their
political differences...I was fond of both of them............(to be
Note: This article should
be taken for what it is: a humorous piece, and not political
©Copyright Gyan Fernando 2001 First written on the 9th of
||The following item appeared on the wire services on the 23rd of June
2001...long after I wrote my original piece..
Chandrika meets Ranil to discuss peace process June 23
(Island) President Chandrika Kumaratunga met with UNP and Opposition leader
Ranil Wickremasinghe yesterday to exchange views on the on-going peace process.
The Presidential Secretariat said that the Leader of the Opposition had assured
the President of his partys support for the peace process.
This is Life immitating Art! No doubt
Ranil got poked in the eye!
Cartoon: The Island 28th July 2002