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Wednesday, 19 September 2018
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Dreams of Anoja PDF Print E-mail
Growing up in Ceylon in the 1960s was difficult. We were growing up in a socialist experiment administered by Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike who was influenced by the leading left-leaning politicians of the time, Dr. N.M Perera and Colvin R de Silva. The power behind the throne was Felix Dias Bandaranaike. In true planned economy form the consumption of rice was restricted to three days a week, sugar and milk powder were hard to come by.
But as teenagers we did not understand the difficulties our parents faced. Ours was to play, have fun, and grow up. We were doing all this whilst pursuing the normal attractions of teenagers anywhere in the world.
I was going on 17 and had completed my O/L examinations fairly successfully and was now in the A/L Forms. The pursuit of sports and strengthening the body was now an activity that took on new meaning. On weekends, a few of my friends and I would go across to the St. Mary’s, Dehiwela, playground at the bottom of Templars Road, Mount Lavinia to play the weekend games of rugby and cricket. I would also use the opportunity to run around the perimeter of the grounds to further my new interest in long distance running.
It was here on a lazy Sunday afternoon, that the proverbial ‘cupid’s arrow’ struck me and the first strong attraction to the opposite sex took place. There were three girls also practicing running, possibly for the upcoming sports meet in their school. There was Anoja. The images of her and her beauty began to consume my thoughts from then on.
I would then do what came naturally. I would get on my bicycle in the evenings and cycle past her house on Templars Road. Never to make a direct move as I was be scared of her two elder brothers, who also happened to be members of opposing teams that we would play our weekend games with. Being a novice at the art of wooing the opposite sex, I did the next best thing I knew; I appealed to a few girls in the neighbourhood that attended the same school as Anoja to put in a ‘word’ for me. No luck.
I then found that she was studying oriental dance with the famed Chitrasena at Kollupitiya. Aha! I made my move. I would wait until she finished those lessons and trekked her way back home. One spot that I was sure to cross her was the Mount Lavinia Bus Stand waiting for the hourly Attidiya-bound bus that would go down Templars Road.
With great trepidation I made my first move. Pretending that this was entirely a chance encounter and on the pretext that I was actually going down to Attidiya, I managed to sit beside her and chat her up. She neither reciprocated my advances towards her, nor did she totally reject them. That emboldened me and I ‘chanced upon’ her at the bus stop again and again. These surreptitious meetings went on for a couple of months depending on my other interests and time schedules.
During this time in Sri Lanka, flirtations and opportunities of meeting members of the opposite sex were limited. Then came my first big break. There was a school’s fair and carnival that she was attending. She told me that I could possibly meet her at this event. Meanwhile, I had got to know there was another ‘competitor’ to win her over, from Thurstan College, Colombo, and he sent word threatening me to keep off any interest in Anoja.
The day of the school’s fair came. I was in a frenzy of anticipation and excitement that I would meet Anoja and be able to walk her around the fairgrounds; that would further strengthen my claim on her as my girlfriend.   Within minutes of my entering the fair grounds, I was surrounded by about twenty guys from Thurstan College. Their intent was to give me a good trashing. But I, too, had taken some precautionary measures ahead of time. I had explained my dilemma to my childhood friend and classmate, Chandra Condegama. He had come along with his cousin, Ranjit Fonseka. Both six footers and broad of shoulder. When the guys from Thurstan made their move towards me, Chandra and Ranjit stepped in, with ‘Indian Head’ steel rings adorning each of their five fingers in each hand. They kept me between them and challenged the surrounding mob, “Kowda, gahaganne laasthi??” (Who’s for a fight?). The mob slunk away.  My day was saved, and I got off with no permanent scars on my face. I then left for home, thinking to myself that Anoja was too attractive for me to keep to myself or win over. That ended my infatuation with her.
A few years later, I was informed that she was getting married. On hearing this, and still remembering her as the first of the girls I was attracted to, I got flowers delivered to her home along with a little gift and a card. I wished her well for the future. A few years later, around 1973, I was invited to a dinner party hosted by my friend Upali Mahanama (cricketer Roshan’s father) at their home. Who should I meet there? Anoja!
She looked beautiful and charming as ever to me, but now with a few extra pounds gained all over. She introduced me to her husband, and we indulged in some small talk for awhile. Anoja then tells me,  “Kohomada api denna joduwak wage set wunna nang? Mama dang puhul gediyak wage! Oya thaama haalmassek wage!” (What if we were a couple? I am now like a pumpkin! You are still like a measly sprat!)
Reminiscenses – Hiran Adhihetty
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