A Religion that Taught Me Life

Pradeepa Senanayake (1995-2008)

image522519I can  remember during one of the rehearsals of a prize giving ceremony, our Principal instructed all the students not to bend their knees and worship the chief guest, despite the fact that he is a well-reputed personality in the country. It is not meant as an act of arrogance, but merely as an act towards upholding one’s self-esteem and pride.

I can still remember the first day I stepped into Kingswood with my dad, who is an alumnus of the same school. We were wandering around, seeing the beauty of the surrounding while listening to the iconic sound of the school bell ringing in the background. I can still remember the way the Senior Prefect raised the school flag every morning while the school song was played in the background. I can still remember the refreshing smell of the wooden stage in the main hall. I can remember the pictures of our founding school officials displayed proudly on either side of the main hall. I can remember hundreds of trophies proudly singing their glory in the Principal’s office. But, during my days at Kingswood I hardly noticed these subtleties. Once you leave the school and start reminiscing, you realize how much it contributes towards making you a successful person.

Every school has its own identity, which is tightly coupled with traditions and values it upholds. Kingswood, from its inception, has become a perfect depiction of an institution with rich traditions and values. The founding father of Kingswood, L.E.Blaze, went against the norm and started calling all the fellow students ‘Gentlemen of Kingswood’. This form of address not only makes our school unique, but it cultivates a sense of pride in fellow students. I believe that the pride one has for himself contributes heavily towards his self-confidence. I have seen in many occasions the way students worship those who are not worthy, throwing your own self-esteem to the dust. I can remember during one of the rehearsals of a prize giving ceremony, our Principal instructed all the students not to bend their knees and worship the chief guest, despite the fact that he is a well-reputed personality in the country. It is not meant as an act of arrogance, but merely as an act towards upholding one’s self-esteem and pride. These subtle values and traditions become one’s identity once he steps out from the school.

I always criticize the Sri Lankan state education system because of its inefficiency in appreciating the soft skills necessary for the survival in this challenging and ever-changing world that we live in. Kingswood is one of the few institutions in Sri Lanka which have identified this particular incompetency and have adjusted its course as such that its output is well equipped with the required skills not only to survive but also to excel. Clubs, societies and sports are of abundance at Kingswood. During my stay, I have been involved in many clubs and societies which exposed me to various challenges, moulding me into an individual who can perform well in any given aspect of life. It’s amazing how much I learned from writing a simple letter to get permission to host an Interact get-together. It’s amazing how much I learned managing conflicts of interests through organizing various activities jointly with other schools and movements.

If one is lucky enough to step into Kingswood, the first thing they will notice is the beauty of the surrounding. The architectural perfection achieved by the designers of Kingswood made it unbelievably holy and serene. Every building, every tree and every pathway has its own story. There are stairways dedicated for teachers and there are trees that no one should even plan to harvest. A student who merely walks at Kingswood has the peace of mind which is essential when learning subject matter and the subtle way of life.

Kingswood is a place where people who come from different backgrounds interact and learn to co-exist. Due to this exposure to diverse social backgrounds it was very easy for me to melt into any set of people and work productively. I have heard people mentioning this quality number of times and I have seen this quality in almost all the gentlemen of Kingswood.

Once I represented Kingswood in a friendly debate. That day a senior gentlemen of Kingswood told me, “Brother, when you leave the school and go outside you are virtually taking a very smooth drawing which resembles Kingswood. Every action you do directly affects this drawing. Don’t let anyone including yourself smudge the details of this perfect drawing that you possess”. Even today, I live by that statement which always makes me immensely proud about my alma mater.

When I compare myself with very senior gentlemen of Kingswood, I feel that they live by the values of Kingswood better than me. Today when I look at Kingswood and its output I have so many concerns and criticisms. Even though this change is inevitable, it is essential to safeguard the traditions and values of Kingswood simply because it defines who the ‘gentlemen of Kingswood’ is.

For me Kingswood is not a mere physical establishment. It resembles a religion. A religion which taught me how to co-exist respecting ideologies of all those who live around us. A religion which taught me how to separate right from wrong not merely by belief but through intellectual discussions. A religion which only has one commandment: ‘Fide et virtute’. A religion that I will follow without any doubt now and forever.

Pradeepa Senanayake (1995-2008)

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