Arisen Ahubudu:A great teacher



I was shocked and saddened by the news that my beloved teacher Mr. Arisen Ahubudu had passed away. Many a Sri Lankan of the older generation knew his name for his scholarly skills. He has given names to many children in the new generation; each name with a meaning that one was expected to live up to.

He was someone who has influenced my life as a young student at S. Thomas’ College.

One might think that this Sinhala scholar may not have suited the College culture. But he was in fact a guiding factor in instilling the College traditions in us.

Mr. Ahubudu taught from grade 7 to Ordinary Level classes. His style of teaching was what we call ‘out of the box’ today. As soon as he enters the class room he draws pictures across the black board. The pictures included figures of kings, stupas and different ancient scenarios. With these pictures, which he drew under two minutes, he was able to draw our attention to him. He was an excellent artist and his illustrations were lively and intriguing. Then he would relate the story pertaining to the drawing. Most often the stories were about a king or something from our history. He told us about Kings such as Dutugemunu and Dhatusena and their dedication to the country, religion and the people. His stories also included ancient cultivation practices, irrigation and the commitment of the leaders of our country. The stories which lasted for about six to seven minutes touched our minds and hearts creating a deep sense of affection and pride towards our language, culture and country. He did not ever have to shout at us to get our attention. His mild mannerisms and gentle way of addressing us together with his exemplary appearance made us want to listen to him. I feel that he was the one who sowed the very first seeds of patriotism in our minds. His vision on patriotism was all about being community and not communal minded. Our forefathers who were the main characters of the stories he narrated always placed country before self whether they went to war, made stupas, had trading with other countries or developed irrigation systems. He was able to strike that fine balance in his stories by highlighting the exemplary character traits of these heroes and heroines and not just giving a false sense of pride of being Sinhalese. Even when he told us stories about the fight against the British Empire, he instilled no anger or animosity in our minds. He ensured that we never became ‘label patriots’; citizens who would call them patriots, yet act contrary to the supreme notion of patriotism. He also introduced the concept of farming for self sustenance to us. Once again he showed us our duty and responsibility towards the country’s future.

I have been guided by many disciplinarians in my life. But none was gentler than Mr. Ahubudu. I still wonder how he commanded attention and respect, kept the students quiet and still stole our hearts and minds without ever having to be strict with us. He was a different type of character; non threatening and soft spoken but extremely effective as a teacher. I cannot recall a single day when he punished us. He addressed each of us as ‘oba’ (‘you’ in its mildest and most respectful form). There was no necessity to send anyone to the Warden or give any sort of punishment. The reason was not that we were great students but because he was a great teacher; great because in his presence all the students behaved well.

I will never forget the ‘sloka’ (Pali and Sanskrit stanzas) through which he imparted deep philosophy to us. I still recall those stanzas from my memory effortlessly thanks to him. These stanzas simply taught us the way to live in this world. He always gave us much more than the syllabus or the prescribed subject matter. Mr. Arisen Ahubudu went above and beyond his line of duty to give us more. Come to think of it, he never had a ‘line of duty’. We never made a mockery of his stories or thought it was a waste of time. From the moment we realized that this teacher was getting us on track to face life’s challenges, we followed him. It was his guidance which helps many of us today to move with people from all walks of life.

Punctuality they say is the politeness of princes. Mr. Ahubudu was a right royal prince for he was always punctual. It was his way of respecting others. He was simple, friendly and affectionate. His priority was teaching and his personal life was secondary. If there were issues, the teachers brought them up at different fora but NEVER at the cost of children’s education. What he wanted and what he dedicated his life for is to ensure that the younger generation became citizens of worth. He was thus connected to his students.

He was also a lyricist who penned meaningful songs such as ‘Lanka Lanka’ to promote patriotic feelings among the young and the old. His songs, written in the 50s and 60s awakened the nation and are still popular. Even through his songs he was teaching the values of our culture and history without insulting other ethnicities. Teaching was in his blood. His knowledge on astrology, numerology and language was so great that people constantly sought his advise when they had to name a child, a project or a business venture. Many of the projects lunched by successive governments have been named by him such as ‘Maga Neguma’ and ‘Sisu Seriya’.

Many of his students have risen to highest ranks in the field of politics, media and a vast range of other professions proving that the foundation that he has laid in their lives has been solid. Unlike a majority of our teachers, Mr. Ahubudu has constantly kept in touch with us long after we have left school. A few people whom I met at his funeral including those who called me to pass on the message of his demise, requested that I write an appreciation of this great son of Sri Lanka. It is indeed a very sad occasion for all of us to know that he is no more. And the vacuum he has created can never be filled. Today as always, I salute him for the nobility he showed us and the humility with which he taught us.

May he attain the supreme bliss of Nirvana!

S. V. D. Kesarralal Gunasekera

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