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21st January 2001
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The pains of parting

By Fuzzy
Now seems the time for me to try my hand at being Tennyson. Or Byron or Shelley or whoever who wrote about the misery of parting. Sublime thoughts which I think can be safely compared with the sentiments of great poets when they wrote their parting poems. 

I hope I will be missed. I hope that everytime my colleagues step into our little communal office my presence will be yearned for. I hope my spirit will hover around my desk for years to come, blessing whoever is to sit there. (Of course while I was sitting there I never felt the souls of others who occupied the desk before me 'hovering', so to say, but that's another matter.) 

One of my colleagues approaches me. It's someone whom I shall miss dearly and who, I hope will miss me miserably. 

"Hey, I heard you're leaving." 

"Yes," I answer softly. I brace myself for a gushy eulogy, a tribute to the joyful hours we shared, poignant remembrances of times that will be no more and an unwavering promise to keep in touch. 

"So..........when do we get the treat?

" Blink! 'Twas a great height to fall from! (Looking back on that moment I think I made a perfect stand-in for a goldfish with my mouth open and closing between short intervals.) 

"You know, I think you should take us all out to lunch." 

Do I sleep, do I dream, do I wonder and doubt? No, she's intently waiting for me to answer, after solemnly offering the 'helpful' hint. This must be how Alice felt, falling into that bottomless well. I don't remember how that memorable encounter passed but it was an experience that recurred often, in many different forms. I began to call it the Alice Phenomenon. The sublimity of the parting hour which the poets harped on, seemed to be far from the reach of mere mortals. Not much later, I tried to explain to my youngest sibling-very young- what my parting means. I wouldn't want her to wake up one day and find out that 'Akka' is missing and that she will be missing for a few years. Oh no I can't bear to give the wee heart such pain. So keeping the tremor in my voice under control, in the simplest of words I tried to enlighten her. 

"You know, for some time I won't be around to play with you, to read you stories, to sing with you....." 

"You mean you are not coming back next week?" 

"Next month?" 
"Oh." A long pause. 
"Then who's going to clean the bathroom?" 

HICCUP. There goes Alice again. Of course I don't know what I expected her to say, but certainly not that. She continues with all the solemnity in the world, sounding much like mother. "I don't care where you're going, you'd better come back on Saturday to clean the bathroom," says my sister. I suppose being the official bathroom cleaner of the household is a great honour. But do such talents have to crop up in such lofty moments as these? As I later found out, that was not the end of it. One day after a particularly vigorous session of cleaning, I found my mother surveying the shiny-clean bathroom intently. I immediately begin to hope. I hope she's thinking of all those Saturday mornings when my cheerful singing rang out to the rhythm of the bathroom brush going back and forth. What nostalgic moments... She notices me and turns. 

"Ah, I was going to ask you; what's the cleaner you use in the bathroom? I'll have to know these things since I'll have to take over your job when you go." I wince and gulp. I don't think even Alice became as familiar as I am now with the falling sensation. Yet there is even more to come.I hope desperately that they will at least enshrine my room and keep it unchanged till I come back. One day I find my brother sitting on my bed, deep in a pensive mood. This is not at all like him, and pigs will fly if he admits that he'll miss me. Nevertheless, since hope springs eternal I wish that he is going to give at least a look that says it all. He gives me more than a look. "I was thinking, may be I'll move into this room once you go. It's more roomy- I need more room for the computer and stuff" 


I resolve to act very carefully in the future when people make allusions to my parting. That is to say, act a little cynically, a little roughly. After all, one can take only so much falling. So, when one day another colleague greets me with the dreaded words, I am extremely wary and may be a little gruff. 

"Hey, you are leaving soon, no?" 

"Yep." Pause. Don't I know that pause well. But she surprises me. She squeezes my hand and says, 

"Oh we're going to miss you a lot....

" I think I acted the goldfish again, but at least this time I didn't feel like Alice falling. Instead I felt like I was on cloud nine. I think she does deserve a treat after all!

Among the gods

By Ruhanie Perera
It was dark and rather cold, on the dimly lit chapel steps. 'The chorus' dressed up in their robes were engaged in carrying out a religious ritual. The echo of their murmured chant heightened the already eerie atmosphere. There was something electrifying about the scene; it felt as if you could watch it forever. 

I was watching a scene from 'King Oedipus', the Greek tragedy written by Sophocles, which will be presented by the Drama Society of S. Thomas' College Mount Lavinia to start off a series of events in view of their150th year commemoration celebrations.

"While the school celebrates its 150th Anniversary this year, the Drama Society celebrates its 128th year of existence and is one of the oldest societies linked to the school. So it's only natural that we should do something really novel," says director Vinodh Senadheera (an old boy of S. Thomas' College). 

"The organisers for the commemoration celebrations preferred a play that could be tackled within the school itself"; for Vinodh whose dream was to direct a play on the Chapel Steps, this was the opportunity to see his dream through. As for the 'right' play, "Since S. Thomas' is steeped in tradition, the play had to have some significance. The very first play attempted by the Drama Society was a Greek play, so I thought that we should stick to a Greek play - especially since the structure of the chapel steps are such that it seems as if they were made for just that type of play." 

Finally 'King Oedipus', the tragic story of the fall of a great leader was chosen for the occasion. The play revolves around Oedipus, a victim of his fate, who comes into power by chance and walks straight into downfall. Although a just king his crime is that which he unwittingly commits when he kills his father and marries his mother from whom he has been separated. According to Vinodh the play was one which had always fascinated him and proved to be ideal for a boys' school to tackle since there was only one female role. Added to that, "Some of the themes found in the play are either universal realities or are strikingly similar to our present day situation." 

What is noteworthy is that the students have really taken to the play. "I wanted this to be a learning experience for them, since all forms of theatre originate from Greek theatre," says Vinodh who adds that the boys have showed far more enthusiasm than he expected. "They realise that they are history in the making and they're going all out to make it special." The students have read up all the literature they can on the subject and have also discussed the play with people who are well versed in the classics. 

'King Oedipus' has proved to be a learning experience not just for the cast, but for the director as well. "I've never worked with such a big cast before, never trained a chorus, added to that Greek plays calls for minimum usage of props, little or no physical contact and almost all the action takes place offstage." Yet, the director seems to be working around these obstacles and the students seem to be coping very well despite the fact that things aren't exactly what they're used to. "Everything depends on the way you deliver the lines. It's just a matter of getting across the raw emotion behind the lines and considering the boys are between the ages 14 - 18, I think they're doing a good job." 

For the cast - "this is an occasion that gives us a definite sense of belonging and a sense of satisfaction knowing that we have something to pass on to the next generation of Thomian thespians." The cast comprises Rajindh Perera playing the role of King Oedipus, Troy Manatunga playing his wife Jocasta and Niran Anketel playing Creon, with Jithendra Seneviratne, Arrvinda Salwatura, Sanil de Alwis, Dilsiri Welikala, Ayendra Wickremesekere, Prasanjith Wijayatilake and 30 other actors. For boys who've never come close to a toga before, they looked rather comfortable in them and my rather nervous inquiry as to how they managed was met with a big grin and a prompt, "no problem." 

Looking back on the experience Vinodh feels that directing 'Oedipus' has been a thrilling experience for him, one that has seen him grow as a director. "The biggest challenge is pushing the cast to do something beyond their expectations; a challenge that comes with the fitting reward of watching them succeed."

Be there on January 26, 27 and 28 as the tragic tale of King Oedipus unfolds itself on the 'Chapel Steps' at S. Thomas' College Mt. Lavinia. In the event of rain the production will take place in the College Hall. The show commences at 8 p.m. each night and lasts around 90 minutes. Tickets priced at Rs. 250/= will be available at the College Office and the College Hall. 


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