We have read the works of great captains of world literature such as Disapamok, Duishen, Kobayashi, Ricardo Braithwaite, Milani etc. These writings depict the true greatness, depth and greatness and ideality of these Masters. They were the power of motivation behind social revolutions! All of them, without exception, left marks of greatness on the fabric of civilization.
I met the combined characters of Disapamok, Duishen, Kobayashi, Ricardo Braithwaite and Milani in my lifetime! Berti Fernando sir was that ideal character whom I had the privilege of meeting at Ananda College.
There is a saying that “Teachers build bridges whereas they are thrilled by having them crossed by their students”. My teacher, Berti Fernando was one of them. I visited him last Sunday at his home, located on Athula Road, Mount Lavinia. His two children, the son and daughter and also his son-in-law, who is a doctor, were present.
They informed me that their father was ill. I was called to his room a few moments later. I saw my teacher and his dear wife lying in two beds in the room. The great personality from my school days was lying feebly. With much effort, he looked at me and said:
“Is it Imithiaz? I am not well; it is difficult for me to breath”.
In the olden days, we saw this great man simultaneously donning the mantles of the Officer of the Senior Cadet Platoon, the teacher-in-charge of Discipline, Prefect of Games and last but not least the Warden of our hostel at Ananda. Even amid his weak state, I was seeing ‘Berti Fernando Sir’ of Ananda in the days gone by! “Guru Geethaya” in Russian Literature comes to my mind. Duishen accompanied Al Hinai and planted a Poplar tree on the Isle. Al Hinai returned to the school after several years and saw the mighty Poplar tree.
My teacher at Ananda College, Berti Fernando Sir, was that mighty Poplar tree! When I visited him that day, I saw that same Poplar tree on the verge of collapsing, a thought unbearable to me. I saw the great man in a feeble condition meditating on the impermanence of life; a great man who nurtured countless numbers of students and who always comforted himself by watching his students being crowned.
I went to see him again in the evening on Sunday. The next Monday I enquired about his condition from his son and daughter. I received the sad news on Tuesday that he had passed away. This is the reality of life. We all have to face this truth one day.
The enormous service rendered by Berti Fernando Sir, to Ananda and her students, for over a decade is still remembered by Anandians with gratitude. We remember his great devotion to the school by the vast responsibilities he undertook. It was a rare commitment. He devoted his life during his tenure to the school!
This great personality fulfilled his duties as the Officer of the A nanda College Cadet platoon over a long period. He was responsible in winning the coveted “Hermann Loos” Trophy, for Ananda College, for the best Cadet platoon in 1967 after a lapse of 11 years. In the same year, he was honoured as the best Commander of the battalion! I could safely say that ‘Berti Fernando Sir’ was the pillar of strength, loyalty and support during the eras of the principals, Perusinghe and Rajapakse, still recognized as the “golden eras” of Ananda. Berti Fernando Sir was an all-round sportsman! Tennis was, of course, his favourite which he continued to play till recent times. I remember him playing Tennis with us during our days at the hostel.
Many students of his, have achieved the epitome in various fields in the country and internationally as proud Anandians. The line-up includes Professors, Attorneys-General, Doctors, Engineers, Politicians, Officers of the Armed Forces, War Heroes, Sportsmen, Captains of industry and business, media professionals and Administrators in government and private institutions. I would like to mention a few names of such intellectuals that come to my mind as a respect to this great Master. (My apologies for mentioning only a few, mostly from my era at Ananda).
Berti Fernando Sir was a strict disciplinarian. Punishments were meted out when and where necessary. However, he was a virtuous teacher and never dwelled on the past. He treated all students equally.
He was one of the most loved and also most respected teachers and administrators in the Ananda Hostel. I was well aware of his interest in the progress of his students as I used to observe many a time, his guidance and assistance even after school time.
Even after his retirement, he actively contributed to every occasion at Ananda College. He contributed immensely as the President of the Old Teachers’ Association.