Thursday, December 8, 2011



by Maximus Jayantha Anandappa (1972-75 batch)

If Machine Drawings were a mystery, then the Workshop Practicals was penance. Foundry, Carpentry and the Lathe Machine were not my cup of tea- though the workshop-staff was exceptionally supportive and sympathetic (when we messed up or broke hack-saw blades) like the down to earth lecturer Mr S Amaradasa. It always mystified me that how Mr Amaradasa could write such beautiful subtle Sinhala poetry to the “Gauge” magazine from that “horrific unforgiving” environment!

As we had access to samples from the previous batch, the task of writing Coursework was less daunting. At least we thought so. An early Coursework was Metal Testing in the Metallurgy Lab. Writing this Coursework was not that hard until it came to the discussion. My roommate who was also in my group for this Coursework produced his own Report “referencing” a sample Coursework that scored 9C (I do not know why a Coursework that scored so high should get a “C” ranking, meaning “Conditional”!) The discussion in the sample Coursework (prepared obviously having made reference to the standard recommended text book on Metallurgy) was quite impressive with its “textbook type language”, but to me looked a bit too long. I took that discussion, changed the structure of the sentences from active voice to passive voice or vice versa, left out some text for the sake of brevity and prepared my “own” discussion. Surely this was not plagiarism.

Our submission triggered a meeting with Mr Ayal Jayatilleka (who was an assistant lecturer then in charge of Metal Testing) who thought it was fit that he had a brief chat with both of us. Both our reports were lying on Ayal’s table when we appeared in front of him and without showing any emotion except extreme politeness Ayal asked: “Now tell me who copied from whom?” With neither of us initially accepting liability Ayal said again with composure and the same degree of politeness: “Well, it is not hard to find out that who had copied from whom.” Fearing I may have committed a fundamental grammatical error in transforming the sentences (or precisely in cannibalising the text), I pleaded guilty, thanking that my English teacher was not present there. Ayal asked me to resubmit the Coursework, but also would have given me enough time.

This meeting with Ayal did not last more than 2 – 3 minutes, but I remember it for another remarkable reason that may look deceptively trivial. Few months later we had the batch trip. Ayal being a younger lecturer and a sub-warden too joined us in this trip. Ever since that incident I had avoided Ayal totally. In the batch trip I was even more careful not to confront him at all. In fact I went in a different bus. During the batch trip, Ayal came to know many of the batch mates by name particularly those who “behaved famously” in the trip. In the first lecture after the batch trip, Ayal was as usual interactive with the students and started calling the “famous” batch mates by their names including me by my name for the first time- something he never did before the batch trip. Gentleman Ayal! He wanted to break the ice without giving the slightest chance to the inquisitive batch mates to ask me the question- how did Ayal come to know me by name- unusual in the first year, unless you had done something special!

Perhaps Ayal typified the spirit of the lecturers whether they were senior or assistant. Though as students, particularly as freshers, we were sometimes a bit hesitant to approach them- they were always there at the hour of need. We always held Prof (EF) Bartholomeusz and Prof (A) Thurairajah in the highest esteem because they looked so approachable, humane and simple despite their reputation for brilliant academic deeds. Even when we were first year freshers, if you happened to meet Prof Thurairajah in Kandy (sometimes opposite the Trinity College waiting for the Penideniya Bus late in the evening) he would always “recognise” you, have a smile for you and would say “Hello” to you. I also recall during the rag season Dr MP Ranaweera once stopped some of us in the Faculty corridor near the Fluids Mechanics Laboratory to inquire about our wellbeing- he especially wanted to know how we coped with the ragging. Realising that we were not likely to tell him about the difficult ones, Dr Ranaweera kept on probing us for sometime until he was satisfied that we were not too traumatised with the situation.

Continued with PART-III

-Maximus Jayantha Anandappa

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