A story of books, boots and men | Daily News


A story of books, boots and men

This is the story of two boys, one a self-confessed bookworm and the other indubitably a sportsman, having won colors for basketball and rugby in his school and leading the rugby team to multiple trophies that year.

The bookworm, now a lawyer, decided upon entering Colombo University, to play ‘a game of men.’ An ardent rugby fan, it was natural for him to try out that sport.

At the time Colombo University played in the B Division and regularly got thrashed by what was referred to as cricketing scores. Our man’s schoolmates weren’t surprised since even their ‘pothe gura’ had made it into the team.

One day, the bookman went to see the sportsman, who he remembered as being warm and unpretentious. He would late recall their first encounter in the eighth grade as follows:

‘He was a Colombo man and I was a humble bugger from the outback of the country. His first words were ‘Hello Machan,’ and the one of cordiality usually reserved for long standing friends. It was apparent later that this was his true nature. Everyone around him was a friend. His warm hellos and friendly conversation even extended to his real opponents in the field of rugby.’

The skipper handed his friend a pair of old rugby boots along with a pair of stockings in their school colors, ‘as a gesture of initiation into the sport.’ It was, he recalled, a solid pair of used ADIDAS boots that he used carefully for a considerable period, thereby sparing his parents and himself additional financial burdens.

A couple of years later, the two friends would find themselves playing against each other. It was in 1987. A 'B Division' encounter. Colombo University vs CR&FC Bees. It was a cricket score at the end, but one that’s at the beginning of an innings: 0-0.

‘After the match, I was sitting on the steps of the CR & FC pavilion and trying to remove my muddy boots. He came to me, shook my hand, sat beside me and said “Machan umbala ohoma gehuwanam college gahandath thibuna (if you had played like this, you could have represented the school as well)." I was stunned and almost moved to tears. Slowly I pointed to my pair of boots that once belonged to him. He patted my shoulders and went towards his teammates.’

No one knew this story under the bookworm, Parashakthi Senanayake, posted in on Facebook upon hearing of the untimely death of his friend, Sampath Agalawatta. Two years ago, almost to the day.

Almost everyone in that batch, now called ‘Royal College Class of 1983,’ has an ‘Agale Story.’ Not all of them are about rugby of course, but it’s the same man, consistent in his warmth, generosity, and humility. He was the sporting star of that batch of course but he was more than that. This is why the group is also known as ‘Agale’s Batch.’ He was known to those much older and even those who hadn’t entered school at the time he left knew him.

Such stories are hard to forget. Harder to remember would be what Agale with no intention whatsoever ingrained in those who associated him. He would recall that for him rugby was about fourteen players working hard and together to ensure that the fifteenth would score. That is how he saw life. That’s how he lived his life.

With grace. Utmost grace. In and out of a pair of boots.

[email protected]. www.malindawords.blogspot.com.

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