Tempus Fugit

Seven O’ clock — twenty peals
From the belfry, brown and old.
Darting past on scattered heels
We would not heed those words of gold:

Tempus fugit irreparabile

 Eight O’ clock – with shuffling shoes
Through the Chapel’s crimson aisles
Sportsmen stretch and others snooze
While Father Lloyd sees all and smiles.

Tempus fugit irreparabile

Nine O’ clock — “Miss, may we eat?”
Kenny asks and Miss declines,
“Now it’s time for square rule sheets”
(And Cos and Tan and their friend Sine.)

Tempus fugit irreparabile

Ten O’ clock — the brave skip class.
Mister Maurice walks his rounds.
“I say Silva! You jackass!
Get to class you bloody clown!”

Tempus fugit irreparabile

‘leven O’ clock — Interval.
Cricket bat and ball and pitch
Chinese rolls, and milk packets
— We were poor but we were rich.

Tempus fugit irreparabile

 Twelve O’ clock – all silent now.
Prefects peek through each class door
“Malli konde kapapan!
I’ll give you quad, you rowdy boar!”

Tempus fugit irreparabile

One O’clock – with eager ears,
Half-packed bags that bell we wait.
For what are but a schoolboy’s fears
Past that creaking Chapel gate?

Tempus fugit irreparabile

It is two now – we are old
And now we heed those words of gold:

Tempus fugit irreparabile


I must have been in College Forms B when I discovered these words by Virgil engraved into the college belfry (it always rang twenty times – never more). Now, a few years out of school its words sting true. The quote, which means ‘time flies irretrievably’ is a grave reminder of all the changing scenes of life. The quote sometimes appears as “…fugit irreparabile tempus” in other sources.


Certain phrases require an explanation for the non-Sri Lankan and non-Thomian reader.

– Malli Konde Kapapan – A colloquial way of saying ‘cut your hair’. Being a boarding school long hair and stubble were frowned upon.
– I’ll give you quad – ‘Quad’ was a popular form of disciplining rowdy boys in STC. It involved making students run around the quadrangle. Don’t gasp. It wasn’t all that bad. Toughen up, buttercup.
– Interval – Recess.

Ps. I have mentioned the name of an actual classmate of mine. I hope you don’t object (chill wenne machan) this was done with absolute fondness haha. All names including that of everyone’s favourite headmaster were mentioned in fond memory.

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Salting The Soil of Another Civil War.

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Unlike its name suggests, “Sri Lanka” hides little beauty in its history. So bloody and volatile is its past that one might argue that all that is left of this “resplendent isle” we call home is a marred landscape choked by the toxicity of violence. The civil conflict Sri Lanka endured for three decades is bitter gall to swallow and something most Sri Lankans would sooner strive to forget, yet to this day the continued manipulation and malpractice of Sri Lankan society’s volatility predicts a future with a dark foreboding. The lack, rather complete neglect for reconciliation threatens to curdle and corrupt Sri Lanka’s youth and once again cast the island into a viscous cycle of war and bitter animosity over petty differences in religious and ethnic spectrums.

The term “I am Sri Lanka” is an exaggerated claim that has all the air and heat of a cliché and deflating balloon. The term “I am” speaks to a majority, and implies that one group presides over the other. It is this post-war approach to portray unity to the world that has ironically crippled the future and promise of a near independent nation. This lie sold to the youth of the country, that one is and not that we are threatens the existence for a blossoming peace. To quote John Donne (aptly) “No man is an island.” and Sri Lankan youth ought to remember that whether Burgher, Malay, Tamil or Sinhalese not a single man or race can be self sufficient with the absence of his fellow countrymen. The lie that is “I am Sri Lanka” ought to be rewritten and rethought before it twists a darker picture than it implies among the youth. “We are Sri Lanka” must take precedence over both majority and minority.

Furthermore it must be brought to light that the youth have not been bred by peace or promises of flowery futures, but rather the insecurity and ideologies of their fathers and thus have inherited the same bitter resentment that can lob the country into instability once again. However these tensions are dormant, only infecting the subconscious, and the failure of those who administer and tutor the youth is in taking inadequate steps to eradicate such seeds of disunity planted by successive governments on both sides of the fence.

Despite the endeavours by the country’s administration to heal this deep gash in the veins of a multi ethnic community, the erecting of monuments only goes so far in hiding the wound. While it is commendable that highways and roads now bridge far-flung provinces the misunderstanding that concrete and cement can fill the cracks within Sri Lankan society must not be taken too seriously. Mass displays of non-existent wealth such as the spending of some Rs.3Bn to host the Commonwealth Summit are unnecessary. This coupled with the fact the some Rs.280Bn is spent on the country’s militarisation against a long defeated enemy is a questionable allocation of resources. Instead of the mass parades and public tamashas initiatives must be taken to nip the weeds of ultra-nationalist movements that seek to bring one ethnicity or one religion above all others. It is this form of neo-terrorism that the country’s youth must strive to exterminate. Unlike the riots of 1983, ’77 and ’58 when the youth had little power to salt the soil of the Civil War the current generation of youth is well equipped; possessing an array of weapons in their arsenal for “peaceful warfare” online and on air. The Internet promises a multitude of platforms for assaulting such groups that extol disharmony. Anything from Facebook and Blog Posts to Scumbag Steve Memes are lethal and effective in crippling those who seek to break the peace and promise this country has to offer.  Applying such measures will choke the seeds of Anti-Western, Anti-Muslim and Anti-Christian ideologies sown in the minds of the misled public and pave a way for a truly independent nation.

Diversity is a double-edged sword, one which with we can wage war over petty differences or one which promotes an economy and society of variety and value. It is in which way the youth wields the sword that will determine whether it is “I” or “We” who are Sri Lanka.