Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Viji Recalls

Memories of Kadalay

My memories of Kadalay hark back to 1939, when I entered Royal as a student at Form I on promotion from the former Royal Preparatory School, and to the 40 s during my school career. Kadalay started his unique association with Royal as the acolyte of Kadaley Aachchi, who was the "official" gram ‑ vendor of the College at that time, and was called the Wadai Boy because his wares (probably an ancillary trade to Kadalay Aachchi's and under her aegis) were "parippu" wadais, which in those halcyon days, when the humble copper coin was indeed legal tender to be reckoned with, cost I cent each, 2 cents for one a little larger and flatter with a smattering of maldive fish and 2 previous day's stale wadais re‑fried to a brown crisp for I cent ‑ cheap, but food for the gods!!

I well remember the benevolent and rotund old Kadalay Aachchi seated under the Reed Tabebuia with her basket of assorted grams such as "bola" kadalay", "rata" cadju and konda kadalay of which 5 cents would buy a pocketful. She always sat on a small metal trunk, which we thought probably contained, all her worldly possessions, and next to her stood our Kadalay, then a mere stripling, with his tray of wadais supported on a make‑shift trestle. Credit was the order of the day and Kadalay Aachchi was accorded the exclusive privilege, personal to her alone, to go round the classes and beard the culprits in their dens to claim and extract bad debts.

Then in the 60 s Kadalay Aachchi died, plunging the College into a dense pall of gloom and so, by a most logical and equitable line of descent, Kadalay inherited her trade and was thereafter known by that name to the end of his days. Unfortunately, in the 80 s he fell foul of the Powers that Be for some misdemeanour and was banished from the College precincts and sold gram outside the boundary walls but his heart was not in that sort of trade and he languished before our eyes. However, he was not left out in the cold for long because an Old Boy (whose name I dare not reveal on pain of dire penalty) took him under his benevolent and expansive wing and employed Kadalay in a sinecure that kept him solvent and going till death claimed him.

Nobody knew, or as far as I am aware, knows to a certainly, what Kadalay's real name was, what his antecedents were or whence he came, but in process of time he evolved into a Royalist to surpass Royalists in loyalty to the Best School of All which is Royal ‑ despite the vociferous claims of Trinity!!

Even now I see Kadalay before my mind's eye, clad in his immaculate and characteristic white as he sold interim sustenance to the chaps or as he led the cheer squads from the front on any grounds where Royal fielded a team which no doubt stimulated effort and thus accounted for many a Royal victory. His opinions ‑ be they on cricket, rugby, athletics, boxing or what have you ‑ based on a rare insight and assessment of capabilities and potential of sportsmen, were voiced loud and clear and many were the Captains, Coaches and Masters in charge who went by what he said and found almost invariably that he had been right! Wherever Royal went for any sport or any game there went Kadalay forsaking his trade and at his own expense to watch and cheer the Royalists and the school he loved so much.

Hardly anyone knew when he died and the final rites were performed as it was during a long school vacation that the fateful event occurred thus depriving generation of Royalists of saying their last farewells and honouring one who gave not only his heart and soul but all of himself to Royal.

"This was a man ‑ when comes such another?

Viji Weerasinghe
Royal College
April 2006

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