I met my friend Dushan for the first time in the year 1967, when both of us joined Grade One at Nalanda. His full name was Dushan Anura de Zoysa. We were both in 1A and the class teacher was our famous Mrs. Esmee Abeykoon. We were just six years old. As I could remember, at that time we had only four classes in the grade of which two were in the morning session and the other two were in the afternoon session.
The number of students in a class was not very many as today. So the class teacher had all the time to pay attention to each of us unlike today. Through the years for some unknown reason Dushan and self-became close buddies. Our friendship further extended beyond us to our families, his father was uncle Douglas, mother was aunty Indra and his brothers Amal and Roshan. Further “Dushan” became a household name. Over the years our friendship grew from strength to strength and that friendship continued until his untimely demise on July 31, 1999. Very unfortunately I was unable be present for his final departure as I was away, overseas.
We were more or less in the same class until we left Nalanda in 1980. When we grew up and were able to move around by ourselves we continue to visit our homes regularly as Dushan lived at Park street which was his grandmother’s house near Campbell Park and subsequently in Mount Lavinia. Our classmates Nalin Gunawardena who is now domiciled in Thailand and Lasath Jayawardena who is domiciled in Canada were our two main partners in crime with Dushan. There were so many others in our close circle. But Nalin and Lasath both had the luxury of spending more time with Dushan, unlike me as I was away from home since I joined the Air Force.
In addition to our studies we were involved in many extracurricular activities in school. Dushan was a bright student and had good penmanship in Sinhala as well as English with his writing skills. He also did scouting as well and professed to be helpful to all at the time of need.
If I could remember right he was a philatelist with a fair collection of stamps. Unlike today, as students we did not have many choices of activity but a few. Cycling was also a popular part of our activity. Further, Dushan was very keen in reading and among his favorites were; Enid Blyton’s “Famous Five”, Tintin series and Asterix in addition to the Sinhala “Chitra Katha”. Dushan always used to share these books whenever he got them with great enthusiasm among his friends. He was always punctual and was a stickler for time. Also he was very particular on how his last name was spelt.
Furthermore, Dushan had a passion for cricket at a young age. He and his maternal uncle by relationship who was also our classmate “Sanath Kalu” continued to play serious cricket starting early. Dushan chose to be a specialist wicket keeper and kept wickets for Nalanda in the 50th golden jubilee encounter. In addition to playing cricket Dushan had a keen interest in international cricket specially the Australian team and had a very good knowledge of cricket. He closely followed the Australian wicket keeper Rodney Marsh. At one time we had Sanath Kalu, Bandula de Silva, Darshana Mohotty, Ajith Wickramasinghe who were all our classmates playing together in the first eleven cricket team.
Both of us became junior prefects in grade seven which was a great achievement and we were proud of it as we were among the few. We followed it with, being appointed as senior prefects later.
With time our friendship extended further with more trips/outings. Dushan had a very canny sense of humor. He always had an interesting story to narrate when any misdeed was done by any one of us.
Our after-school extra tuition class was full of fun and banter during our A/L time. Dushan was not only popular amongst the boys but, also among the girls of the class. Our travel by bus to and from the classes though short was very eventful that we looked forward to (foot-board travelling etc.). But we were very responsible and never exceeded the limits.
After we completed our A/Ls we choose different streams of career progression and Dushan chose a career in the Merchant Navy which he pursued with a great passion. His dream was to be captain of a ship and he was moving forward steadily.
Since he was in the Merchant Navy, whenever he had a break between voyages, he never failed to meet and greet his friends. I recollect on one occasion he took me on board a CSC ship when it docked in Colombo port and got special permission from his Captain to accommodate me overnight on board in his cabin. It was my first experience on board a ship and I still have a very pleasant memory of it even after all these years.
Dushan had many circles of friends with different groups until his untimely departure. He also had a great tolerance and a liking for children with very young fan club and narrating stories to them. My son and daughter always looked forward to his visits due to this reason. From being classmates we continued our friendship as we settled later in our life with our families. After tying the nuptial knot with Geetha Dushan’s life time partner, she joined us with joy in all his endeavours with us. She was a very elegant lady who tolerated all of us. We still cherish the good times we had with Dushan and the memories will remain in our hearts forever. He was a very nice human being and a wonderful friend.
Let me also acknowledge the inputs of Nalin G and Lasath J in penning out this note. I wish that we remain to be friends with Dushan in our future births as well. Also I take this opportunity to thank all our classmates who gave me the inputs by walking through “back to school” and regret the inability of acknowledging them individually. When we go back down memory lane, we find that unfortunately eighteen of our classmates have departed from us along with Dushan and the last to depart forever was Bandula de Silva.
May all of them attain the supreme bliss of Nirvana !