Somachandra Skandakumar’s Address at the Launch of Mevan Pieris’s THE COMMUNITY,21 March 2023 … with highlighting imposed by The Editor, Thuppahi
Chief Guest Professor G.L Pieris, Guest of Honour, the Reverend Warden Marc Billimoria, distinguished Guests, Ayubowan ,Vanakkam, Assalam Aleykum, Good evening,
It was three years ago that an equally eminent Thomian Anura Tennekoon invited me to speak at the launch of his book. Today I am privileged again by one of similar standing and must thank Mevan for the opportunity. Such moments merely reinforce the values of our two great Institutions, where the fierceness of competition on the playing fields have led to the strongest of bonds off it .
Sandwiched between the learned Professor, and the revered Warden, I feel like a Dwarf. Thankfully Royal’s sterling performance at the big match on Saturday has given me a few inches!
It is not my intention to comment on this amazing research and labour of love of Mevan’s. It’s an area I must leave to the Professor who is far more qualified than I to do it.I will instead touch briefly on the author as I have known him for almost sixty years.
We first met at the Royal Thomian of 1965. St Thomas’ were registering comprehensive wins against every school on their way to our big match. We knew we were the underdogs and that even the glorious uncertainties of the game were not going to produce a Royal win. So we focussed on an honourable draw.
There was a good reason for it. In Mevan and Barney Reid the Thomians had the most destructive bowling combination that had skittled School after school as their season progressed. They both bowled in-swing at varying pace to the right handed with uncanny accuracy.
For those of you in the audience not familiar with this time-consuming game, imagine yourself in pads standing in front of a set of stumps with a bat in hand. If there was the slightest gap between your bat and pad, they would get through you to shatter your stumps!
Facing a daunting first inning total of our rivals, close to three hundred, we were bundled out for little and followed on. A great rearguard action in the post-tea session on the second and final day for our last wicket between Nissanka Wadugodapitiya and Lakshman Thalayasingham saw us earn an honourable draw that prompted our winning captain of the 1969 encounter Eardley Lieversz to pen an article which he captioned “When a Draw can be as good as a Win “
The team was truly honoured!
Our paths next crossed at the Colombo University where we played three seasons of the Premier P. Sara tournament together. In the third season Mevan was made Captain and it was a season of great achievement made possible by his inspirational leadership.
His attention to detail, meticulous planning, complimented by his own sterling performances with both bat and ball raised the bar for every member of our team and it was no surprise when we became Champions in our league beating some very formidable sides. One had no less than seven national players in it!
Sadly, examinations clashed with the final round games and we were never at full strength thereafter.
We then went our separate ways and Mevan achieved much in the field of education completing an MBA, and qualifying as a Chartered Chemist and made a significant contribution to the Plastic and Rubber Industries of the Country.
His meticulous application to detail, flair for research, and a passion for anything he undertook has now evolved a book probably unparalleled in content and in History. As the Warden mentioned, the contents will be debated for their negatives, but the positives he pointed out remind us of the contribution this elitist group of three colonial eras of the Portuguese, Dutch and British, made to the well-being of Society in general.
While we take those positives let us today take a step back to reflect seriously and honestly at where we are as a Nation! For a Country blessed with the natural resources we have and with the inherent talent as we see even today, the circumstances we are in seventy five years into Independence has left me utterly humiliated as a Sri Lankan.
Never did I even remotely dream in my time at the University, that in the twilight of my life I would see our great country placed as it is today!
There is a future we owe and must ensure for our succeeding generations and it is now time to press the reset button to facilitate that. What better way to initiate that process then, than to reflect on our own personal blessings.
How often have we reflected on the magic of creation! By that I mean our human anatomy, and its functions! Our brain, the ability to think, to hear, to see, to speak, our organs as our heart, lungs, liver, pancreas, kidneys, the movement of our limbs and their amazing coordination to preserve our wellbeing. How often have we paused to appreciate it and to demonstrate our gratitude for it!
Before I conclude therefore, I thought I will read to you an extract from an Essay that a great humanist, Paul Johnson, who passed away on 12th January at age 94, wrote in 2006, titled “The Human Race, Success or Failure.”
“Somehow we have to bring back into our private lives and public life the spiritual element, the sense of awe at the magnificence and possibilities of creation, the pride in goodness and altruism, the fear of wrong doing and materialistic arrogance, and above all the love for fellow human beings which is inseparable from the belief that all human life Is created in the image of divinity.”
Those profound lines speak for themselves as do those uttered by Marcus Brutus to justify the assassination of Julius Caeser. He said at the funeral Oration,
“It’s not that I loved Caeser less, but that I loved Rome more “
Yes, let us restore that love for our Nation as our highest priority as we trigger that reset button, and set an example for all to follow!
Thank you again Mevan for this honour,
May God Bless you All.