Thursday, December 30, 2010

Everything was going on so well… - by E/81/214

Read PART 1: First in the batch...!!!


Prospective engineering undergraduates chose Peradeniya over Moratuwa for several different reasons. For some, it is the natural choice being the closer one to their homes. Some had their siblings, classmates, friends already studying there leaving them with no second option. But for me, it was the aesthetic, poetic, romantic and the seductive feeling naturally associated with the name Peradeniya that did the talking. All the novels, short stories, poetry and songs about the Hanthane mountains, the Mahaveli river, the Lovers’ Lane etc, I had enjoyed over the years had created an extremely impressive picture about the University as a whole. This, together with the excitement of being away from home in the early adulthood, made it nearly impossible for me to consider the alternative option of Moratuwa.

The beginning of the academic year 1981/82 was considered to be a good one comparatively. The great boycott, that probably gave birth to the ‘staff-eka-lamainta-honda-nehe’ label to the Peradeniya E-Fac, had just been won by the students. I had read Henry Warnakulasuriya’s article in Youvun Janatha with great enthusiasm. The atmosphere in the faculty was cordinal and we had a warm welcome from the senior first year (a.k.a. Thunkaal, i.e., 3/4) batch. The new student common room was declared open by Professor Thureirajah who later became the Dean of the faculty to the great joy of senior students. Everything was going on so well…

Our seniors kept telling us that you need to get though just five subjects in the first year, only. There is a lifetime of chances for the rest of the exams. We took them seriously and what’s more, continued to misguide our juniors for several years to come.

We learnt a few skills too. How to draw a casting curve using a five cents coin; how to maintain impressive 10mm margins in coursework reports while borrowing the content from elsewhere; how to make a glass-print as good as the original; and so on.

The common room with its Carrom boards and TT tables provided us with an oasis in the middle of “Kammala” desert. This is where you make a few friends, learn to appreciate the decoction of water, sugar, tea and tin-kiri by Ananda and the team while rest of the world is toiling inside leacture theatres or labs.

Everything was going on so well…!!!


First in the batch...!!! - by E/81/214

“You have come from the second best school of the country to the best engineering faculty…”, the lean figure paused to clear his throat, “… and you have no excuse (for not knowing how to write Thevenin’s Theorem without a single mistake). Go to the library, refer a good text book and show me the correctly stated Theorem in the NEXT lab class!”

This event took place in late 1982. I was a second year student in his first Electronic lab class trying to measure a cell using a multi-meter and was unfortunate to be randomly selected by "Gunda" for his ill-famous questioning routine.

My “guestimate” of six volts for the cell we were going to measure using a multi-meter was pretty wrong.

That’s when the real questioning started.

I knew the theory of the Wheatstone’s Bridge and the operation of the Ni-Cd battery correctly but not the exact wording of the ill-famous “Any two terminal active network …”. Even if I had answered that question correctly, I knew that the quiz-master could continue until, eventually, I fail.

After all, I was just a second year student who was facing his day of judgement in front of the professor in electronic engineering by a mere coincidence.

Becoming the first person of my batch to have been thrown out of the electronics lab gave me a great satisfaction. That’s because I had just passed the first hurdle of becoming a celebrity; someone graduating with 16 subjects, some one coming back to the faculty in the Jeep in the “tourist season”, someone making the numbers of 600+ who sit the second year exams each year. Wow!

This was an important day in my university life neither because I learnt that the best school of the country is Mahinda Collage, Galle but not Ananda Collage, Colombo, as I have been incorrectly assuming, nor because I learnt the exact words of Thevenin’s Theorem by-heart. But more importantly, it started to become clearer to me that my selection of Peradeniya over Moratuwa had been a mistake, at least as far as academic work is concerned. But fortunately, studies were my least concern when I opted for Peradeniya in 1981!