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The Straw hat and the Uniform

By Hafeel Farisz

Its March again I’d rather be in the Cinnamon Gardens police station than write this piece of nostalgia. It’s just so hard to condition my mind and to think I’m an old boy ahh I hate even the thought of it. I’m now only One of the many thousand guys who would be talking of their days in College, trying to convince a steward to give him the poor guys hat just to convince his ego that he still has that in him, one of the many who would be confined to a tent shouting their throats hoarse with words even mariyakade women would be surprised to hear, one of the many who have a thousand troubles on their heads but who have made the annual pilgrimage’ only to forget all of it, one of the many to which in life’s race the dawning of March is nothing exciting, one of the many who’d have to make sure he books his tickets early, which if not done would result in the unthinkable

It’s even harder to recollect everything that was associated with the Royal-Thomian. It was what we lived for, at the end of one big match, plans for the next were drawn- the best way to snatch the Thora flag that goes around in dear Ms de Fonseka’s van, what we would add to next year’s cycle parade and even the intricacies of the routes we should be taking when visiting the schools around are discussed a year in advance. It was the mission of our lives for six long years- to have a blue and black flag flicked before the big match. The clatter down Boyd Place or Flower Road heralds The days for most of us who had the privilege of walking through those hallowed portals of Mt. Lavinia or Reid Avenue .There is nowhere on earth, no where that we’d rather be during the first term of school. The planning, the re- planning, the execution and the fatalities of the Royal-Thomian is everything that we lived for, the fatalities obviously being badly bruised or in the worst case scenario ending up in the cop sheds of either Colpetty or Cinnamon Gardens, until a master from College decides to bail you out. And oh to not have that adrenaline rush, when we see the dreaded blue jeep coming our way and have no option but to run for our dear lives is just not fair. Having been granted colours for four long years, at either one of these police stations I am told to exercise a bit of restraint when penning this article (I will try my best to do so).

I’ve got to finish this article in approximately one and a half hours before I get the next call from the Editor. In this rush I shall try and fill you in with all those glory days of the 21″‘ century come March… Ahh where do I start????
Wait let me think .1 was in grade five innocently trying to prove myself at the junior sports meet trials, when a few aiyas decided to (I later learnt they were stewards) scoot us out of the trials to the parade. It was just Blue and Gold down Rajakeeya Mawatha. They were good enough to give us accommodation in the traditional stewards’ truck and the feeling was just amazing. We were told to lead the R..O..Y..A..L (they must have been amused by the site of seeing a few ten year- olds in a truck) and cheer we did, till we could no more. I remember the aiyas doing the 1..2..3..now panapung just as we were passing LC. And the cops beating the hell out of most of them (thankfully we were still on the truck and the stewards were also pretending to control the rest of the guys who were a tad bit too late to react to the Panapung.)

We then moved onto Middle School and we had our little matches at the junior grounds in full blue and gold attire which was purchased outside the junior gate. We had prefects randomly walking into class and finding a piece of paper fallen on the ground (or some fault that we could be shouted at) and order one of the guys to give an R ..five minutes after he leaves the block. This is while every other class in the section had a teacher in them.

And then I moved onto College, when the big match was everything. We lived for nothing but the big match. It was everything for the hormonally imbalanced, adamant aggressive, testosterone- filled teenagers that we were. It was the time that poras were distinguished from the others. To go trucking and get unmercifully beaten by the marauding cops, to be humiliated in the middle of Colombo’s main roads and still make it in to the desired destination was an indescribable feeling. There were times we had to use public transport to move from one place to another (with AIS deciding to move to some god forsaken place far from the route ) and we yet made sure that all the bases were covered. Walking and not riding the Cycle parade and then suddenly deciding to break off the Parade and do our ‘thing’ only because we receive a call from someone who informs us that the cops near Bishops have gone to LC, because the Thomians have supposedly gone there and ‘bang’ all of us are looking for transport to get to Boyd Place. The girls loved it too. They were our intelligence operatives drawing up exactly how we could enter their classrooms and passing it on to one of the guys (ok I get it, u can’t say it out loud)

All of this would normally start on Monday and would go on till Wednesday. My body must have thought I was mad to do what I was doing. Monday ‘trucking’ (not in actual trucks-they were banned while we were in the Middle school, but for those of you who are unfamiliar with the word, it is used to describe hundreds of sweaty young men scaling the walls of Colombo’s most popular girls schools) and then direct to the printers where I would be till very late in the night doing some godforsaken thing my Editor wanted me to do and then, Tuesday again we go through the same routine covering areas that we couldn’t the previous day. With my throat giving way, after shouting my head out I go to College to get8 ready for the Royal -Thomian Debate. Ashan, who was the captain at that time, was stunned when it happened the first year and then he realized there was no point in making sense to me. Both of us knew that and he adopted to the craziness remarkably the next few years, by only asking me machang what time will u get back? for some luck I never had to go meet the OIC of the Cinnamon Gardens police on Tuesday.

We would always manage to make it to all the desired areas . Where we would walk around the corridors acting like we owned the place, we would run into classrooms and start teaching the subject that we new best. (Even accounts to a math class) the teachers used to be very accommodating. They loved every moment of it sometimes even going to the extent of talking to the police and telling them that we were here on invitation and there was no need for the police to interfere. It was a very simple task, by the looks of it. We followed what I was taught ages ago by the aiyas…we scale the wall of the school – 123 panapung and we bolt right into the hallowed premises of the chosen ‘Base’ .1 would be failing in my duty (our duty actually) if the lady who is the head of the school down Flower Road is not mentioned. All of us (Royalists and Thomians alike) are deeply indebted to her for the many times she has kept us inside the four parapet walls of her Fortress until the roads were clear with no Cops wielding batons were around. One year after thanking her profusely for her generosity, she made it a point to warn us never to set foot into the boundaries of Flower Road again. It didn’t take that long when we had to walk into LC for a debate- attired in coat, tie and all (like the fully- fledged gentleman we are) The Thomians were also present at the competition and Neraj( the S. Thomas’ debating captain that year. had also been a recipient of her kind treatment the same year on a different day and (they had been inside for four hours, and filled their stomachs with all the food LC had offered them that day) It was very silly of me not to have expected her to say anything and I was shocked when passing me she told me ah Farisz(I have no idea how she knew my name) you’re also back ah?? I jus spoke to the other one also (referring to Neraj) the episode was laughed over.

How could I miss the flicking of the Thora flags? The girls from Bishops in trying to show their brotherly love were the most affected. Timing was of utmost importance. Thirty seconds too early and the windows are closed, thirty seconds too late and bang the van is gone. We had to know the routes of the vans, the exact times that they would pass and then work on how we would get the flag. If there is a Bishopian seated next to you who carried an STC flag they will tell you of how a few arrogant boys went about flicking the treasured Blue and Black flag. (I can’t go into detail of the flag flicking sessions-1 can’t put one story over the other so I shall leave it at that)

The Royal -Thomian debate for those of you who have not had the privilege of rtl es being a part of (watched one of them) is an integral part of the Big match itself. The two debating teams of either side, clash head on to prove their might. The debate is held at alternate venues every year. The teams have the ultimate verbal battle having a free hand at whatever they’d want to say to each other in the crudest and most insolent manner, well above the bounds of normal debating practices but confined to the strict code of ethics the two schools boasts of. Usually there would be no teachers among the spectators and rarely a parent who would most probably be an old boy (if not he wouldn’t be in a position to watch the debate with his son) until the Thomians decide to bring their Advanced Level English teacher to witness the proceedings. (Apparently she wanted to make sure that these guys actually could debate in English). Even she wasn’t spared at the Debate, which is normally chaired by the Head Prefect of the host school. It is indeed the epitome of -Royal Thomian rivalry.

Let’s move on to the souvenir. Now I know the general attitude towards the guy who sold this souvenir to you would be a very sin no he has to do it on all three days I don’t think he can even watch the match .Don’t be fooled by the please by this from me look I repeat, do not be fooled because I can assure you that it is these few guys who have the best time at the Royal -Thomian ( and to think that I will have to buy a souvenir from them this year ). Apart from pocketing the money that the ‘Uncles from Mustangs Colts and Stallions give us we have the privilege of walking into any tent at any time (of course you can’t get caught to the Editor or any of the prefects for that matter) like the Big match revolved around the few of us. We would walk around the tent’s stationing ourselves where we had the best view of the chicks who had decided to grace the occasion in their most revealing outfits, ( No, we wouldn’t flirt with any of them) It was the most fun-filled time for everyone who had associated themselves with the souvenir. Being a member of the senior committee and subsequently the sub editor proved to be better than anything else because all I had to do was walk around checking if the boys were doing their job (to sit down at the most happening tent and enjoy the proceedings basically) The big match frolic hit an all time high in 2006, when I was appointed the Editor of the College souvenir. Even that responsibility didn’t prove to be a deterrent. It was the all time high for me as a student that year until I was infamously locked up inside the Cinnamon Gardens Jail, for quite awhile the day before the Big match. I was stripped off the editorship of the souvenir and all Royal souvenirs had a sticker under the title the Editor, till all ended well.

I am told that all of nostalgia is about never growing up, but I’d opt to stay a schoolboy forever instead of having to go through the torment of recalling The days of my life. My mind still can’t condition itself to the feeling of actually being an old boy.. .ahhhhhh even the thought of it makes me flinch.

And then we graduated to being College prefects. Organizing the big match was solely our responsibility. They decided to put me in charge of the big match (now with all the experience and seniority they had no option right??) It was the zenith of our careers for the chosen few. Organizing the parade, the routes, clearance from the cops, floats for the parade, the financing ,(the list goes on )was the most arduous and rewarding experience for all of us, who had the privilege of walking in to the College prefects’ room. I assure you that we acted fully in accordance with the positions we held (Supun, Yadav and Niro will agree).

I can go on and on and on about the Big match and everything that came with it, but I was ordered restraint and I shall comply in this hurry I tried to present at least a tad bit of what all this merry making was.. This isn’t all of it there was much, much more and I assure you I could fill this souvenir with all of the notorieties. The Big Match is nothing about cricket. Cricket is only the excuse.

I know I wouldn’t hear a the huge clatter on the roads of Colombo, but at least a few distant footsteps will make the Papare thump deep inside I wish I could don the college uniform again just for one more year!!!! I won’t forget the straw hat though; it’s where all those memories lie in the straw hat

We would be going through every one of those stories this year. Everyone of it ..The stories which can be told and the ones that can’t be told will all be amongst the topics we’d discuss for three long days .Isn’t that what old boys are supposed to do??? If you’re a member of the female of the species looking around to hear some of the stories and can’t locate me I’m the guy standing on a chair with a hat on giving an RRRRRRRR .if you’re a guy don’t bother just cheer on R O Y A L ROYAL

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