Remembering Vijitha ‘Viji’ Weerasinghe
‘Magistro ad generationem et generationem’ is Vijitha (Viji) Weerasinghe – teacher to many generations of Royalists. The worldliness, the wisdom and the vivacity of this unique character endeared him to all pupils, teachers and parents alike. The remarkable features that made him so special were numerous but most salient would be his love and loyalty to his alma mater.
Being a Royalist since the age of 5, he himself ‘learnt of books and men’ among the very trees and classrooms of this hallowed institution. His advice to all teachers was one that he practiced: ‘not to forget that you yourself were once a school boy or school girl’ when dealing with children. His authority was one of anointed trust – we the teachers of the time found comfort ‘in his pendent nest’ of course ‘with double trust.’
A gentleman of the highest calibre, he was the father figure and role model to all the Royalists who had the good fortune of having him in their lives – either as teacher or mentor. He was an authority within College on matters pertaining to English language as few could match his erudite grasp of literature and none to match his mastery of Latin. He was able to inspire his students to pursue the great works and thus was responsible for moulding some of country’s most honoured statesmen and academics.
Before the internet age, when videos of Shakespeare dramatizations were rare – Viji always ensured that the cast had a video of the relevant play; procured through the many past-students who remained in touch with him from overseas. In fact such was his ardour of the latest information that his last wish was to see “Julius Caesar” as portrayed by Marlon Brando.
The epitome of a great educator, Viji’s memory was renowned – he could not only recall the classics of the great Masters of literature, but also recall the names of his students many decades after and even recount their escapades with amusement! He is remembered as a man with a great heart, who cared for the boys like his own.
His kindness and attention was bestowed on all equally and even extended towards the vendor known to the school community as Kadalay. Viji himself fondly recalled how the faithful “Kadalay” once fell from grace and had to be rescued. One who might have been overlooked as insignificant, had the good fortune of being acquainted with this great man to whom no deed was too small or too great.
As a former student recounted, “having spent a long time as a teacher, and being a man of men and matters, he was able to move onto to hold the seats of Section Head and then as Deputy Principal with ease and acceptance. One of his greatest attributes was his ability to easily relate not only to his young charges but also to the many others with whom he interacted. He had a deep understanding of human nature sufficient to reach out to people with a genuine concern for them. Being a Latin scholar he believed in the adage – Homo sum; humani a me nihil alienum put. – I am human. Therefore, I think nothing human alien to me. It was this same understanding that helped him to serve a succession of Principals at Royal with equanimity and equal acceptance and to provide them with solid advice, especially at times of impending crisis. I am personally aware of how with characteristic tact he had been able to persuade them onto the right path, as it were, when required. Whenever, he smelt impending disaster to the hallowed well-being of his school such as tinkering with her time-tested traditions he put his institutional memory and persuasive powers to good use to steer them and the ship to clear and cleaner waters.”
His advice was sought by principals, statesmen and Royalists young and old. Viji had spent 73 years of his life at Royal, 14 years as a student; 21 years as a Teacher; six years as a Head Master; nine years as a Deputy Principal and ten years as a Vice President and Advisor to the Royal College Union. His demise deprived the school of one of its most trusted stalwarts, and we the Royal College community is eternally in your debt for the great service you rendered to us all.
“A good teacher is like a candle – it consumes itself to light the way for others,” said Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Thou hast not consumed thyself in vain. October 31st, 2014 is the 7th anniversary of the passing away of Viji.
Though you are no longer with us Sir, I am sure that those you trained and inspired to emulate you will ensure that Royal College will be safeguarded and nurtured. I conclude with the sentiments of yet another of his devoted students: ‘this was a man, when comes such another?’
Principal, Primary Section