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Mahinda memories



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The late Arthur was a turbulent student at Mahinda College in days of yore. He had left the college before I joined it and to everyone of my generation he was Arthur Uncle.


Born rich, he was the son of a bus magnate. He had an imposing personality and was a notorious prankster.


Schoolboy days


One day, he introduced a huge centipede into his class teacher's hat, and as the unsuspecting pedagogue was merrily cycling home after school, the centipede decided to make its presence felt. It sank its fangs into the hapless man's bald head, and with a scream of pain the teacher losing his balance fell off his bike onto the road, with the bike falling on top of him, much to the fiendish delight of the many schoolboys who had followed him to watch the fun.


This teacher was nicknamed 'Jintan' as he resembled the man on a popular brand of sweets called Jintan. Jintan was fond of using words of learned length and thunderous in sound in the style of Dr. Samuel Johnson and the following day this essay written by Arthur Uncle appeared on the class (junior form) blackboard.


"As Mr. Jintan was descending the declivity of Elliot Road with excessive velocity on his abominable vehicular contraption masquerading as a push-cycle, he felt a searing pain on his cranium, which is devoid of its customary hirsute covering, and losing his centre of gravity was precipitated with a shriek of agony on to the macadamized thoroughfare, bike and all!"


Sometimes Arthur Uncle would come to school driving one of his father's buses, the vehicle loaded with fellow Mahindians and upon reaching the school gate he would hand over the bus to the driver. It was a stupendous feat, considering the fact that at the time the roads were narrow.


One day the principal spotted him and summoning Arthur Uncle to his office warned him never to do it again. By now, he was nicknamed 'Bus Arthur' by his friends. But the incorrigible Arthur Uncle took the warning lightly, and repeated the offence.


"Arthur," said the Principal angrily, "despite my warning, you have done it again, Arthur, this school isn't big enough for the two of us. Either you must go or I must go."


"Yes, sir", said Arthur Uncle pondering deeply, "and I would humbly suggest that the latter course of action would be the most appropriate."


Sometimes, beset with some school problem, the principal was heard to have said, that all those could have been avoided had he followed Arthur's advice.


One day in the English Language class, the teacher asked the students to write 10 sentences, using 10 words he had written on the board.


Up shot Arthur Uncle's hand. "Sir", he said with deceptive guilelessness, "are we to make 10 sentences with EACH word, or ONE sentence with all 10 words?"


Another day, the class teacher asked them to write about a cricket match and Arthur Uncle was quick at it: "Rain no play."


In the old days we had what was called the Matriculation Examination, a rather formidable hurdle for those who aspired for higher studies.


On the day the government decided to scrap this exam, Arthur Uncle had this to say: "Matriculation Examination was a botheration to the nation, whose occupation was paddy cultivation."


(At that time J.P.U.M. stood for Junior Passed Unable to pass Matric)


In later years when his former principal was delivering a postprandial speech at the Galle Cricket Club, Arthur Uncle, who was after a few 'drinks', tried to heckle him. His former guru then said, to loud laughter, "Arthur! you talk big. But your progeny is nil!"


Arthur goes to court


On leaving school, Arthur Uncle managed his father's popular firm, which had a vast turnover.


At the outbreak of World War II, price control was introduced for the very first time in our history, and a popular brand of soap was one of the many items so controlled.


One day Arthur Uncle was copped for selling a cake of soap three cents above the controlled price, and a case was filed against him. The charge was a very serious one, and Arthur Uncle retained Dr. Colvin R. de Silva.


The prosecution led the evidence of their witnesses, namely the Price Control Inspector, his decoy, and one more eyewitness to the transaction. The Gazette notification regarding the price at which the soap had to be sold was also produced.


The evidence against Arthur Uncle was overwhelming but to everybody's surprise, and Arthur Uncle's dismay, Dr. Colvin R. de Silva declined to cross examine the prosecution witnesses.


After the prosecution had presented their case, Dr. Colvin R. de Silva rose to his feet with his signature studied laziness, and picking up the cake of soap entered as evidence, drawled in his booming, gravelly voice, "Your Honour, there is no case here."


The Gazette notification regarding the controlled price of this particular brand of soap refers to the soap made in Ceylon, whereas, as your honour can clearly see on this label, this cake of soap, though the same brand, has been made in Liverpool"


Uncle Arthur was acquitted.


 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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