Random jottings on OTSCby Peter Wells

This overweight, confused, apprehensive Englishman arrived in Kandy 14 years ago and this state of terrified panic lasted for about 36 hours, when I realised that my knee jerk decision had been a good one. However, this is about the OTSC, not me – a number of anecdotes may appear selfish but they will be necessary for me to make my point. Let me cut to the chase.

In the early days I met Bimal Fernando who was kind enough to invite me to the club and I was astonished at the position, warmth, and excellence of the place. There must be Old Boys clubs in England with similar facilities, but I have never seen one. I was introduced to such notables as Muthukumar, Alex Lazarus, Firdowzi ‘Fido’, Nippa Pilimathalawa (forgive all these incorrect name spellings) and Deva (one of nature’s gentlemen) who seemed to take it in turn to invite me occasionally, providing that I stumped up the Rs20 entrance fee !! Done. I was always aware of a looming figure in the background, called Halimdeen, who clearly disapproved of me despite my best efforts with him. I thought that he owned the club – I was right, he did !

A couple or so years later Bimal was inaugurated as President and, one day he approached me with a menacing look which suggested that I had committed some heinous indiscretion. He fixed me with one of those looks and said ‘Peter, I have decided that we need a "token coloured" in the club, and I have decided that it should be you. You can be my permanent guest but there are conditions. You will sit in the corner of the bar, keep your mouth firm shut, do not insult or offend anyone and you will be welcome’. How could I have refused such a charming invitation. I acquiesced.

At that time, the bar and catering was turning over an average of Rs2000 a night. Bimal installed a pool table and a large screen projected TV with satellite – the takings increased to an average of Rs7000 a night in three weeks. He burned out in a year after a series of successful events but his standards were set in concrete, he was succeeded by Fido.

During this year my confidence was fully restored and I was an almost, daily guest with that pride of Lions Sean Wanigasekere, Sam Samarasinghe, and Malsiri Kulakulasuriya (if they weren’t all Lions then they should have been).

This leads me to my next ‘situation’. I was sitting on my perch in the corner when a 50 year old Billy Bunter lookalike came into the bar, gave me a look that suggested something very unpleasant and muttered, ‘sotto voce’ to a friend ‘who the hell is that Suddha in the corner’. I immediately decided to miss him off my Christmas card list. He circled me a couple of times like a dingo sizing up its prey and I was uneasy Three or four arracks later (someone must have done a little PR on my behalf) he came over to me, with outstretched hand, and introduced himself as Nimal ‘NUG’ de Silva. Since that hesitant start he and I have become really close friends, in the nicest possible way ! Mihiri Devendra, Francine, Michael Richardson, Malik Saheed, Ben, Upendra, Ovinda, Azwa and too many to mention became my social life. Rizvi Ismail is my trusted and loyal confidante and close friend. Chula Ratwatte is a born raconteur.

Then another unforgettable ‘cameo’ occurred. A young man, in his early twenties came into the bar where I was alone. He had clearly had a couple of halves of lager and I sensed a little imminent malice. Peter, he said, I am a Trinitian and very proud of it. Quite right, I said, always remain so. But, Peter, Trinity is a very old school. Absolutely, said I, another good reason for your contentment. The poor fellow wasn’t getting too far in winding me up so he turned to the attack. Did you go to school Peter ? Yes I said. But was it an old school (his trump card) ? Well, it was founded in 1515 I said, will that do ? He stormed off to the pool table and I haven’t had the chance to buy him a beer, since !!

Three years ago I received a letter from the President stating that ‘by an unanimous decision of the committee I was invited to be a life associate member of the OTSC for the yeoman services I had rendered’. I was convinced that this was a tasteless joke since the only ‘disservices’ that I have rendered have been two arrests for having consumed an excess of alcohol at the club ! When the offer turned out to be genuine I was almost moved to tears – what an honour.

This offering is much too introspective but I hope to reinforce the value of the OTSC from an ‘outsiders’ point of view. It has just emerged from another crisis under the interim Presidency of Mohan Samarakoon, a born administrator, and his committee and let us hope that the reemergence is complete and permanent. The alternative, its failure, is unthinkable, would be a sheer disaster and it can not be allowed to happen. Under the leadership of Michael Richardson I am confident that controlled expansion will prevail.

Long Live the OTSC


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