“When to the sessions of sweet silent thought I summon up remembrance of things past”~William Shakespeare, Sonnet (30)
Ananda 125 Years – A review
Ananda College, named after the principal disciple of Siddhartha Gautama the Buddha is, more often than not, revered for her celebrated contributions to the revival of traditional Buddhist education, reckoned for her distinct accomplishments in non-academic fields and scorned and looked down upon by condescending social-climbers who missed the rare opportunity to attend Ananda College to pursue their primary and secondary education, still remains at the very top tier of educational institutions in Sri Lanka. I state that, not as a so-called proud old-Anandian, but an ordinary citizen making a mere statement of fact. Ananda’s journey over the past 130 years has led through a path of glory and disappointment; it’s been through hardships for the teachers and torrid times for the students; it’s been one magnificent journey, through the proverbial peaks and valleys, whose end is nowhere near but in the distant future. Ananda is not a station as most of our admirers respect; it is a fast moving train taking its travelers along moonlit nights as well as broad daylight; without any favor or fervor, without any irrational emotion but a whole lot of passion.
In completing ‘Anandaya – the first 125 Years’, a dedicated team of chroniclers have made a remarkable effort at painting a marvelous picture on a broad and seamless canvas, with cold professionalism and painstaking attention to detail one would see in an accomplished biographer. It has provided each reader of each era with a timeless impression of reminiscence of what he went through in that long and arduous journey. That is the inescapable essence of the chronicle that is before us. Whilst recounting the dates and times of each era, whilst presenting a factual picture of the varied struggles and tribulations ‘Ananda’, as a collective mindset of faceless thousands who have passed through the ages of pre-Independence and post-Independence Sri Lanka had to endure, the authors have been able to maintain a remarkable sense of balance in highlighting those characters who shaped and defined what is left today as the legacy of ‘Ananda’.
Many a review has already been written of the book we are talking about today. I’m not going to be judgmental on those efforts, nor am I going to be judgmental on the very institution that is called Ananda and her place in Sri Lanka’s society in relation to each of us. All products of Ananda College have not achieved the pinnacle of society. All have not achieved the desired results when they entered school and completed their education from their formative years to late teens. Yet we indulge in the glories of those few who went to the top of our societal ranks, whether they be of professional, academic or political sort. Many have fallen by the way side. Many have found no light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Many have grown accustomed to the utterly discriminative nature some of our masters and even Principals had resorted to during the reformative ages of our nation as one struggling to raise her head above water during and after the colonial times.
When stipulating these thoughts and beliefs, one must unvaryingly grapple with the fundamental question one must ask as an old-Anandian or even a non-old-Anandian. What is the concept of ‘Ananda’? Is it merely a concept, or is it a living organism? Is it the buildings? Is it the teachers and principals? Is it what we have attained in our respective lives, professionally and personally? Is it the countless lessons we have absorbed or is it an illusion or a mirage that we store within ourselves and never try to give expression to, for fear of finding the inglorious truths hidden behind those illusions and mirages? Or is it the combination of all these aspects and influences and more? I don’t have an answer to these endless alternatives. I dare not choose one from amongst these choices. To do so would be utterly condescending, a characteristic which Anandians are not known for. That, they say, belonged to alumni of other so-called ‘classy’ schools who hurl scorn at Anandians for not being so ‘classy’.