Another spectacular cricket encounter between Royal College and S. Thomas’ College is around the corner. The camaraderie at these matches would always remain perennial in our hearts. My mind wanders back to the Battle of the Blues of 1992. A brilliant era of school life, long before the advent of Facebook and Twitter. My first meaningful big match experience, as a spectator. I was 16 years. The aura of endless fun remains very vivid.
School closed early on Wednesday afternoon to enable us to rest, and attend the Match on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The annual cycle parade was being held that afternoon. The section Head Dixon Arasaratnam manifests a stern warning that the boys should not misbehave and must strive to uphold the dignity of the school. Similar sentiments were echoed at assembly by the amiable Rev. Duleep de Chickera, the Chaplain, who rose to become the Bishop of Colombo.
Our entire class of 32 boys had agreed to meet outside the school gate, and proceed to the match venue. Few days prior to the big match travelling by the 112 school bus it was interesting to note that our alluring friends from Bishops College and Methodist College were wearing on their right hands, bands of blue and black. Their solidarity was appreciated.
We were clad in shades of blue and black. Flags neatly folded. Our transport arrived – a white hi-ace van! I am still bewildered as to how we all squeezed into this vehicle. As we passed Borella junction two traffic police officers signal us to be mindful of the flags protruding from the windows. Many songs were sung in vocal disharmony. The driver ‘uncle’ also contributes a Sinhala pop hit from the legendary Clarence Wijewardene. As we neared Serpentine Road, the traffic was moving at snail’s pace. Policemen were deployed at the gates. The P.Sara stadium was crowded.
As we approached the Blue and Black tent, the pulsating vibes of the papare band was superlative. By around 11 am the bands tempo had reached a dazzling momentum. Everyone was dancing. The senior ‘old boys’ were enslaved by the captivating double distilled waters of the exotic king coconut. The aroma of tobacco was quite pungent.
The floor of the tent was scattered with polythene sachets and bits of plastic. A well nourished baldheaded soul was making chronic gyrations to the ever enticing dance beats and stepped on a polythene sheet. Suddenly, he was being propelled towards the band with increased velocity. A comical crash took place. The brass cymbal was sent into orbit. It landed on the head of a Police Sub Inspector. That agitated worth already burdened by this public duty, began to unleash a volley of uncouth warnings. That fat exuberant soul was now perched upon a snare drum, which had thankfully cushioned his fall. The music came to a standstill. The tent resonated with laughter.
The enterprising denizens of Wanathamulla had harnessed their culinary talents and were selling an assortment of savouries. The mobile menu included devilled thora maalu (fish) and deep fried chicken drumsticks encrusted with a sauce from Sophie akka’s hearth! The ‘happy hour’ on unlicensed beer lasted many hours! Thankfully, I remained sober, to remember this narrative. A sudden stillness on the field as the umpire seemed to be somewhat puzzled about a LBW decision. Some wise son from the Royal tent shouted, “I say umpire, learn or depart.” Ripples of laughter.
The badinage and union of that match was so intense. The unfolding years have impacted our lives in many aspects. Yet the bonds of brotherhood at school remain steadfast to this day. After all what is built must indeed last forever. May the battle of the Blues go on to enrich many generations.