Reminiscences of Jaffna Hindu College Days

Over 54 year ago, as a boy of ten, I was taken to the Principal’s office, in January 1936 by the late Mr. S. Nagalingam (known reverently as Shakespeare Nagalingam) and my father to gain admission to Form I in the college and at the same time as a boarder in the hostel of the college.

Mr. Nagalingam, a friend of my father impressed on my father, the importance of a Hindu boy studying in the Hindu environment. My father at that time thought of admitting me to St. Patrick’s College, Jaffna, under the Rectorship of Rev Fr. J.M.F.Long. My past good karma and luck gave me the opportunity of entering the portals of this Great Hindu institution, which stands out as a Beacon of Secondary English Education in the north of Sri Lanka. The College has served 100 years, the people of Northern Province mostly aid the whole country generally in fulfilling the needs of the younger student generation over these years magnificently and graciously. Hindu College, in Jaffna, has produced great men in all walks of life, Educationists, Administrators, and professional men of honesty, integrity and brilliance.

It was in 1936, the College which was serving only for boys, decided to admit girls to the College for the first time under the able Principalship of late Mr. A. Cumaraswamy, an eminent educationist with great foresight and devotion. The College did grow in eminence in all fields of activity during his leadership for over three decades.

My classmaster in Form IA, late Mr. T. Ramasamy, a kind and devoted teacher inculcated into us the correct way of pronouncing English words according to the Oxford dictionary. On the first day in the class, a passage was read by him to the class for dictation (English) and I made 10-12 spelling mistakes. After correcting the books, Mr. Ramasamy called me to the table as I had made most mistakes, taped my forehead and remarked “You have a wide forehead and enough brain matter inside why did you make so many mistakes?” The remark made me feel so embarrassed in front of the class, then and there I made a determined effort to improve my spelling. Every term end, Mr. Ramasamy an enthusiastic dramatist, always organised his class students to contribute an interesting episode of Shakespeare’s plays like Merchant of Venice, Julius Caesar, King Lear, etc. and I had the opportunity of participating in all three end of term concerts.

I remained as a student from 1936 to 1944 with a break of one and a half years in Colombo at St.Joseph’s college, Maradana. I succeeded in the London Matriculation Examination held in January 1943 and remained in the University Entrance class till the end of 1944. All throughout my career in the College resided in the College Hostel.

The experience, educational fulfilment and other extra curricular activities moulded me to be a responsible, resourceful member of my profession. The influence of the College, and hostel I environment really helped me to discipline myself and channel my energies and enthusiasms into religious cultural activities at College and outside in the society as a professional medical man.

I had the unique opportunity of being taught in the various forms in various school subjects, by almost all the members of the staff from the Principal Mr. Cumaraswamy, and Vice Principal Mr. V.M. Asaipillai to every other senior grade and special grade members of the staff. They instilled into us h knowledge, life experience and discipline.

In the hostel environment Mr. A. Subramaniam, Mr.K.S. Subramaniam and Mr. C. Subramaniam (orator) did greatly contribute to my personality and well being. Late Mr. K.S. Subramaniam was a gifted warden who understood the psychology and make up of young and adolescent boys. He never spared the rod and spoilt the child.

An institution prospers on the calibre of men who are leading and guiding the institution. Jaffna Hindu had been and is fortunate to have that leadership and devotion in the various Principals and staff, some of whom are still continuing that great service whilst any have demised within my life experience.

This College was started with the Blessings from that Great Tamil Saiva Savant Sri-La Sri Arumuga Navalar and the contribution she has made to Hindu, English and Tamil education in the Northern Province for the last 100 years is paramount and monumental. May she continue that great service to the community and country for many more centuries.
Dr P. Sivasothy
Consultant in Venerealogy and Dermatology at General Hospital, Jaffna 1964-1968)
Secretary Jaffna Hindu OBA Jaffna (1964-1968), Presently in the United Kingdom.
Centenary Celebration Souvenir, 1990