Beyond the quadrangle
On the occasion of the 125th anniversary of the Old Boys’
Association of S. Thomas’ College Mt. Lavinia, our columnist and
author of the Thought Leadership Forum Ranel Wijesinha contributed
THE OBA @ 125 is a formidable score, which will provoke the desire to belong.
A claim to belong, however, is not about a name in the class register in the
archives of the school by the sea, a plaque that records a prize, a place in a team, or
even the appointment as a prefect of the house or the school or much more.
The number of times one attended the annual cricket encounter, rugby match
or regatta while wearing the blue and the black on the outside does not also
add strength to a claim to belong. Being a Thomian is much more than that.
Beyond physical infrastructure
What we often remember is the small club or the big club grounds, the chapel,
the middle school block, the college hall, the many other distinct features of the
college or that pure white border around the golf like green – the Quadrangle.
All this was a warm and secure home away from home, for more than 12 years –
the longest period we would have been in any establishment of learning. But this
is reminiscing about physical infrastructure only. We need to move beyond the
quadrangle, as it were – but yet, be anchored by it.
Beyond class teachers and classmates
We will also remember those who moulded us into what we are and that
would include wardens, sub-wardens, head masters and members of our teaching
faculty. We will cherish the memories of classmates with whom we played,
fought and debated, some of whose friendships we yet retain.
Yes, all this physical and people infrastructure would have anchored us down
to a set of values, the principles of self worth and self-respect and a code of conduct
that we might follow. This anchor will discourage us from drifting away from
that value system. It is about an expectation we have of ourselves and the expectations,
those around us, have of us. Politics, the professions or business
We must be mindful that we cannot use the name and age of the school, its history
and reputation or simply the fact that we went to S. Thomas’ College Mt. Lavinia as
a defence for any action of any kind that may not be what a Thomian would engage
in. In essence, we cannot take cover under the college flag. Thus, whether we are in
politics or the professions, in businesses of our own or in blue chips, whether we are in
Sri Lanka or overseas, we have to be worthy of representing the college flag.
If we are in politics, we need to conduct ourselves in a manner such that we
do not have to battle the battles that we, as a nation, were forced into in the past.
If we are in the professions, whether it is in the practice of law, medicine, accounting
or engineering or any other, we must remember that a Thomian will, in the first
instance, ensure that he serves the public interest. If we are in business, we must
have a conscience. That conscience, the yardstick by which we are judged, is not the
value of the corporate bottom line and balance sheet alone, or the rupees and cents of
our personal net worth achieved at any cost, and sometimes at the expense of many
others. A Thomian is judged by much more than that. Might I add that a Thomian is not
aloof, arrogant or obnoxious? A Thomian is not over confident, offensive, defensive,
insensitive and hostile. But at the same time, a Thomian is certainly not servile,
subservient and docile. A Thomian is independent and objective, but can yet be a
humble, team player. All this, of course, is a tall order and even Thomians are only
human. But being Thomian is a tall order and the least we can do to belong is to
continuously strive towards this ideal. I believe that the message I have endeavoured
to convey is a simple one. That message is that we do not have the right to claim to be
Thomian until we continuously assess and self evaluate whether we are leveraging the
values and discipline we learned at college and in turn, adding value to our families,
communities, our professions and vocations, the nation or the world, or whether we are
contributing to the erosion of each or any one of these. That indeed is the litmus test, of
whether we can call ourselves “Thomians” or not.