Revisiting PWC - Part V
Although there were several ‘hard nuts’ with ‘light fingers’ at our
college, there was always an unwritten law that no one should steal from
classmates. Whenever there was any such misdeed our drawing master
became a self appointed ‘criminal investigator’ with his remarkable
psychological tactics. Apart from his yarns, he was very popular for his
self-styled investigations and earned another nickname as the ‘PWC CID’.
As opposed to his hunting revelations, he managed to condition the
minds of students to make them believe that he practised voodoo (mantra)
too! - Needless to say the boys were alarmed to a certain extent.
With a puny frame and 4ft 8 in tall, in Western attire, collar black
tie and a pair of dark glasses, he quite fitted to the have role of
‘CID’ investigator! Had he worn a British style Puggaree hat and the
bowed pipe, he could easily have been a replica of Sherlock Holmes.
Spirits, ghosts or jinns (smoky type) are believed to be the souls or
spirits of the deceased who appear in barely visible wispy shapes to
give realistic lifelike visions or other manifestation to the living,
His stories about dabbling in the supernatural world made desperate
students to seek his assistance whenever there was a need.
Becoming exceedingly popular in his analytical activities the college
magazine - The Cambrian - too carried his caricature once under the
caption - CID PWC with an outsized head, dark glasses and a teensy
figure in trouser suit.
The beauty of it was that everyone accepted his ‘black magic’ when he
always came up with positive results at the end. His normal psychology
during an investigation was to lecture the whole class with graphic
details on supernatural beings and their activities. He then clenched
his fist and whispered into it, as if to fire up a mantra, while closely
watching every face with an eagle eye through his dark glasses to detect
any change of countenance on a face.
Naturally, in such circumstances the guilty students cracked-up
mentally and got exposed. He subsequently approached the targeted
student and had a polite conversation privately ensuring not to
embarrass the offender. It is immaterial what transpired during the
dialogue, but at the end of the day lost items were found without much
damage to anyone’s reputation or embarrassment, which could be put down
to his ‘undercover’ skills.
Once there was a novel experience when a boy who complained about his
bicycle bell-cup going missing within the college premises. The student
complained to the ‘CID at PWC’. That time it was a different technique
altogether. He requested all students in the classroom to write their
names down on a piece of paper, rolled up the name tags and placed them
in a container.
While going through a gamut of supernatural experiences his vigilant
eye started rolling from one corner to the other creating a scene of a
melo-drama. Suddenly the school bell rang for morning tea break.
Students ran up to ‘Top Charlie’s tuck shop’ to buy a patty and a large
mug of tea which cost only ten cents. In the meantime, he walked up to
some Endaru bushes in the garden, plucked a leaf and wrote the name of
the nervous looking boy’s on his left palm with latex of the plant. When
the latex dried the stains remained on the palm embossed.
Once the teaching resumed after the interval, he set fire to the
rolled up name tags and rubbed burnt residue of ash on his palms until
the latex writing carrying the name of the student became prominent.
Finally the bell-cup miraculously appeared on the bicycle handle thus
solidifying his ‘Sherlock Holmes’ tactics further.
Uniform and power
There’s a certain amount of truth in the saying that the personality
of anyone in a uniform changes, be it a security guard or a top ranking
official. This I experienced when I was a junior cadet and recall how
pompously I rode my bicycle to College wearing my cadet uniform for
The most embarrassing incident of all PWC activities took place when
the Junior Cadet Platoon went to Boosa Camp for an annual competition.
On the final day, prior to the inspection ceremony, we were given a
thorough lecture on discipline, how to look smart in uniform, polish
shoes to look like a mirror and very especially how to behave while in
the camp. We were strictly advised to salute any officer during the day
or night time when we came face to face.
One evening three of us were walking up to the canteen when Tissa
suddenly got excited having spotted someone in uniform. He immediately
assumed an ‘attention’ position and saluted to the official in uniform
to be realise later that he had mistakenly greeted the Bugler! The poor
fellow got a belly full of honking by the rest of us including a good
supply of toothpaste all over his body while he was fast asleep and
During the final day official drill ceremony all college platoons
paraded to be adjudged on a competitive scale, one after the other, from
physical training skills to marching modes. It was a moment that made
everyone anxious as the winning of the Cup depended on the absolute
performance of the platoon.
I can never forget how Mr. Perera, our Contingent Master shrieked,
under his breath, while grinding teeth, having noticed one of my white
socks had disappeared into tennis shoes during physical training
Mr. Perera had a shattering voice which was suited to command a
platoon. In an attempt to shoot his mouth off and boast about his
commanding cadence he decided to stand quite a few yards away from the
platoon while a Senior Judge observed our performance to allocate marks.
We marched perfectly to a rhythm until Mr. Perera attempted to show
off his dominant tenor and stood quite a few yards behind the platoon
and commanded, ‘Squad……. Right Form’……….! It was a disaster indeed! Two
lines of the platoon turned to the right and the other two lines to the
left turning the whole operation into such a muddle. Naturally we lost
to St. Sebastian’s College that year.