Monday, February 12, 2007

Respice finem (1)

I looked down through the clouds at a beautiful world stretching towards a horizon that was wider than it had ever been. The world beneath me grew silent. For the first time I could see the world and everything in it including myself – in proportion. Then it began to dawn on me how small and insignificant I was in this vast stretch of land and sea. The sun seemed brighter and the daytime sky was not bright and blue – it was dark. The stars at night didn't twinkle and there were more of them than I had ever imagined. I flew by towering castles of clouds into a world where I felt closer to God.
I was walking into an old dream and could feel the smell of boundless opportunities with the soft breeze on my face. This is where my story begins, because it is the moment that separated me from the childhood that I left behind. I was hungry for the knowledge of life and the wisdom that I could not gain merely by reading books or by taking a quiet contemplative walk around the Kandy Lake. Inspired by the stories of my friends who had left the shores of home, I reached out beyond the horizons into a new chapter in my life. I rode the winds to experience the romance of university life in a land many ocean waves away.

I always wanted to expose myself to a bigger world than the one in which I grew up. I knew it would be a world that was as harsh as it was rich with wonder, and I knew that I would eventually have to carve out my own space – my own little corner – in it. Drawn by a sense of adventure and freedom as well as accounts of the adversities that I would have to go through as a student in a foreign land, I sought challenges that would push me off the edge of my known universe. I could never have imagined what I was heading into and how that journey would change me. It would eventually turn out to be a journey of self discovery that tested the truth of what I had learnt and my flexibility in adapting to a new environment while maintaining the rigidity of what I stood for and believed in. I will have to learn to accept that I had to leave behind the innocence and incorruptibility of my childhood, to enter through the gates of adult life.

In a world where a formal education in itself is a luxury to many, I had the good fortune and courage to explore the marvels and romance of university life. I am doubly blessed now, to be able to look back at the things I learned as a student and how those lessons have shaped me and my aspirations of life. Now in the twilight of my student life, I want to take the time to remember the books and men that have taught me the lessons of my life so far, both at home and beyond the ocean waves. Soon my anxieties about building a career, family and mortgages may wipe away the lightness, laughter and legends of a time in my life when I was naïve, foolish and innocent enough to stubbornly hold on to ideals and dreams. I will have to wait patiently, for time to teach me how to make the compromises and trade-offs that I will eventually have to negotiate as an adult in the years ahead and how they would shape the course of my life.

School still holds some of the fondest of all my memories. The stories, laughter, waywardness and mayhem of course are too many to mention. Even though I have a slightly broader world view now, I have much less curiosity than I had on my first day at school. It scared me when my father left me all by myself in a strange place, among people I did not know. Sixteen years later, I was thrilled at the prospect of leaving the shores of home to explore the world on my own. Even then, I was not fully capable of appreciating the fact that 'education' was as much an exploration of myself as it was of my environment and of the universe.

Apart from a few embarrassing incidents that will remain never to be shared publicly, I don't have too many vivid memories of my first few years in school. The only reason that made me wake up early to go to school was the prospect of playing one of a dozen variations of cricket, inside or outside the classroom. We have lost more than just a game of tap-rugby, but also teeth and half a dozen spectacle lenses in the over-crowded and dusty quadrangle. I am not surprised that the most nerve-wracking moment in my life so far was not on stage at the BMICH with the deafening shouts of over a thousand people at the "Shakespeare Finals" or trying to survive a shiny red ball that was whistling towards me off the turf at Asgiriya, knowing that I had left behind a crucial piece of protective gear in the dressing room. It was actually when I had to carry my teary face into the headmaster's office during one of those early years in the junior school, to explain that I was partly to blame (along with a bat, a ball and my poor shot selection) for the fragments of glass that used to be a window pane at the start of the interval. The lessons learnt in those early days begin to make sense only with the maturing years of life. School made me who I am, but I had to leave home and the warmth of my loved ones and head out into the world alone, in order to discover that.

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