Campus life in the 70s
‘Mathalan’ was a very popular film those days. It was screened in a famous theatre in Borella and some of us went for the 10.30 show one day. There were a number of long queues and joining one, we spent about one hour cracking jokes. Oblivious of what was happening around, we proceeded, but where we ended up turned out to be a bakery outlet, issuing bread to customers.
by Wasanthi Jayasuriya
Being in the Colombo University during the 70s, used to be great fun — less trouble from busybodies on the roads etc. We five girls of the same batch, together with many others living separately were staying in a famous boarding house in a narrow lane at Havelock Town. It was run by a lady, a somewhat miserly disciplinarian. Her husband was a retired Teacher Training College Lecturer - our headache, as he did not allow us to take phone calls.
Five of us in the Arts Faculty were accommodated in one upstair wing of the house, while in a parallel wing there were science students. There were strict rules to restrict our behaviour. No one could go out after six and could not come back after nine in the night. Our boarding mistress (BM), very often entertained visitors and one such day, we were to go to see a ‘Bhakthi Gee’ pageant in Nugegoda. We could not tell the BM as she was busy with the visitors.
The show was late starting and it was past 9.30 when it was over. We hurried back, but when we reached the ‘boarding’ the gate was locked. No lights burned and we had to climb the very high gate with our ‘tight skirts’ which were popular those days. The gate made a racket and a light came on in the house. When the BM appeared on the balcony, we had fortunately finished our ‘jumping game’ and were guiltily moving towards the house. "How did you come in?" went the threatening voice. We crept into our rooms silently and only heard the words ‘Nehedichcha Lamai’ (uncultured girls).
We were given a limited amount of money by our parents and very often had to walk back from our headstrong journeys without having the bus fare. The ‘Jathika Pola’ on Buller’s Road (now Bauddhaloka Mawatha), was very popular those days and the first day we went there, we ate whatever we liked. Soon we had left only the bus fare back to Havelock Town, but there were some fine ripe tangerines too. "What shall we do?" someone asked. "Let’s eat and then walk back," was the unanimous answer. So, we ate a lot of tangerines too and walked back to the boarding house.
On another other day, we had to go to Slave Island to get our bus season tickets. After buying the tickets, we found that two of us had no money for bus fare. So we decided to walk the distance of nearly three kilometers. Fortunately, when we reached Town Hall, we saw one of our senior girls, at the time a newly appointed tutor in the Sociology Department waiting for a bus there. We told her our story and she gave us money to go by bus. The following morning, we directly went to the Sociology Department to pay back the ‘loan’. But she just smiled broadly and said: "No no...take it back. I only helped you when you were in trouble. That’s my pleasure."
Going to shows was one of our most favourite modes of entertainment. ‘Lumbini’ was the most famous place for stage dramas and we hardly ever missed one. Once there came a drama called ‘Chora Pabbatha’ and we went there for the opening show. There were only a few spectators, mostly the families of the drama people. When we came back, others, particularly the working girls who had just returned from their offices, asked us about the drama. Since leg-pulling was one of our pastimes, we told a lie that the show had an exceptionally full house. They hurriedly got ready and went and we were waiting for them eagerly to have a good laugh. They came back scolding us and also said; "there were only 20-odd people in the audience!"
During rag season in our second year, a first year girl - a fresher - who came to stay in our boarding place, was caught by some rag leaders of our batch. We were sorry for the innocent girl Prema and thought of a plan to rescue her. Disna in our clique, who was also a tough rag leader had the idea. She went to the raggers and caught hold of Prema (slyly winking to her) and said; "who is this ‘Kolama’ (the joke)? Give her to me," and grabbed her by the neck. The raggers gladly released her thinking Disna would give the girl a better rag than they could manage, but as soon as they were out of sight, she released Preme saying, "Modi (fool), run back to your lecture hall."
‘Mathalan’ was a very popular film those days. It was screened in a famous theatre in Borella and some of us went for the 10.30 show one day. There were a number of long queues and joining one, we spent about one hour cracking jokes. Oblivious of what was happening around, we proceeded, but where we ended up turned out to be a bakery outlet, issuing bread to customers. It being the period well known for food scarcities, there were queues even for bread and we had mistakenly joined a bread queue, which ran parallel to a film queue. Anyway, we again went and saw the film the next day, never to be outdone by the mishap.
Marie Ranasinghe was a girl in our clique who was from Sandalankawa, in Negombo. She invited us to visit their home one day, a big house on a large coconut land. About eight of us went there one weekend and Marie was waiting at the Negombo bus stand. We reached her home by the Sandalankawa bus and she treated us to a good meal at lunch. She even gave us a large pack of cakes for the return trip and put us one of their bullock carts to come to the bus stand, as the local bus was not available at that time. On the cart we sang songs like ‘Hanika Yaman Pulli Gono’ (Hurry up the bull with patches) and the carter thought we were teasing him. We were also wearing saris and told the man to stop before arriving at the bus stand as we were reluctant to get off the cart in public. The carter took his revenge by taking us to the centre of the bus stand, driving the bull fast while we were shouting to stop. We got off thoroughly embarrassed, while a group of boys at a distance began hooting at us!