I joined Jaffna Central College (affectionately known as JCC) in 1967 and walked to school from my uncle’s home on Clock Tower Road. For a kid moving from a small school in Mannar, Central was an enormous and magnificent place – a hub of activity in every sense. Later on, my parents lived in Athiyady and Nallur and I was one of the bicyclists who clogged up the morning traffic in Jaffna town.
What I learned at Central played a huge part in my professional success and molded me into the person I am today, able to thrive in alien environments and unchartered territories. Central was the most cosmopolitan amongst all the schools in Jaffna. We had students from all the towns and villages around Jaffna. In my class I had some of the richest and poorest kids in Jaffna. We had kids dropped by chauffer driven cars immaculately dressed from head to toe and kids who walked miles with no footwear to protect their feet from the sweltering sun. There were Christians, Muslims, and Hindus. Central treated all of them equally and this specific culture instilled a unique set of values on all of us during a tumultuous time.
My teachers from middle school to high school included many interesting characters to say the least. Mr. Somasundaram the constantly betel chewing music teacher and the woodwork teacher Mr. Jayaratnam who had some challenges of his own are two of the more interesting ones. We had nicknames for most of our teachers. Many of them for reasons of endearment and some to reflect our negative feelings at times due to what we perceived as unfair or cruel punishments meted out to us.
Our principal up to my O. Levels was Mr. Sabalingam, one of the greatest educators Jaffna has ever produced. He took an interest in me personally due to my academic achievements and tried to convince me to move to Jaffna Hindu when he took over the principal’s chair at Hindu. I am truly glad that I stayed at my beloved Central. The teachers who helped me build a strong foundation in the sciences were Mr. Sabalingam, Mr. mariathas, Mr. Sethukavalar, Mr. Paramananthan, Mr. Vigneswaran and Mr. Mahadeva.
The period during my A Levels, I had to admit was a challenging one and was the beginning of the transformation of the Tamil nation impacted by the “standardization” policy. We were the second batch impacted by this policy and many of my friends went on to get involved in many heroic activities outside of the school activities.
Being a sportsman at Central was the most cherished thing for most students and the best way to be noticed. A Central cricketer would always win the popularity contest amongst the girls, particularly from our neighboring school, Vembadi. I remember our lunch time cricket matches which will go on for weeks to finish the required four innings. The wicket was two book suitcases, stacked on top of the other precariously and the balls many times were worn out tennis balls. These lunchtime games were the incubator and nursery that produced some of the outstanding cricketers produced by Central including my brother S. Suthakaran. Centralites R.K. Premachandran, K.M. Shanthilkumar and R. Naguleswaran would have had an outstanding career playing for Srilanka if they were born in Colombo.
The Central – St. John’s match was the highlight of the sporting calendar. The level and type of activities I enjoyed during the big match changed over the years. During the last two years at JCC I had to find refuge at a friend’s house in lieu of facing the wrath of my parents due to the level of inebriation that took place. The annual sports meet was another big sporting event and I belonged to the Wilkes house and unfortunately we never ended up as the champion house during my time at Central. The best ever athlete produced by Central, Olympian Nagalingam Ethirveerasingam was the chief guest for the sports meet one year.
Annual prize giving was another event that I remember fondly. I was fortunate enough to be recognized every year as one of the best students during the prize giving and was specially recognized for my achievements in the three important public examinations, J.S.C., G.C.E., O level and A level. We had many distinguished all boys as chief guests every year and I was very proud to see my classmate, good friend and President’s Counsel R. Surendran being the chief guest at a recent prize giving.
Finally, I would like to say that my beloved Central has given me more than I ever could have imagined and I would like to encourage all the Centralites living across the globe to contribute towards Central’s re-building to achieve the glorious reputation as a leading educational institution.