28 September 2012

Rashmi made me tall today

It was about twenty years ago that my friend Sunil Dikwella, then a young graduate from the University of Peradeniya, told me about his first days at work.  He had got a teaching appointment.   

His first placement was in a small school in Hasalaka.  The day he arrived at the school, the principal, after a long discussion, had suggested that he address the school assembly. 

It was his first day in school.  He knew nothing about the students.  He knew very little about the school.  He knew, from personal experience, the meaning of depravation.  He recognized similarity, he saw himself in the students he addressed.  He told me he used an old adage to frame that first speech: ‘don’t curse the darkness, light a lamp instead’.

There are many ways to light a lamp, but perhaps the lamps that cast their light the farthest are those that are lit without announcement or fanfare, those that come without curse but are attended by that eminently human attribute of determination to overcome constraint.

A beam of light shone my way this morning.  It came from a news story.  Rashmi Nimesha Gunawardena is not from Hasalaka.  She’s from Deraniyagala. She attends the Deloluwa Junior School.  She is one of hundreds who passed the Grade 5 Scholarship Examination.  She was the only student from that school to pass the exam.  She was in fact the only student from the school to pass the Grade 5 Scholarship Exam in 10 years!

There are, I am sure, others who happened to be the only ones passing the exam from the particular school.  And I am sure there are a few among them from schools that have not produced such a student in 10 years.  She is special.  Very special.  Not just to Sarath Gunawardena, her father who also teaches in the same school or to Dhammika Podimenike, her mother who teaches music at Seetawaka Central School, but that entire school, the village of Deloluwa, the town called Deraniyagala and the entire country.

Ten year old Rashmi was born without arms.  She was born sans her right leg.  She wrote the exam using the toes of her left foot. 

She is a beautiful girl. She made me ask myself ‘have you really done anything of any significance in your life?’  I answered (to myself): ‘no, nothing’.  But she empowers.  Today I am taller.  I am stronger.  More determined.  I have greater self-belief today.  All because a beautiful little girl passed the Grade 5 Scholarship Examination. 

None of us can really say ‘can’t’ or ‘can’t do’ or ‘no.  That’s a small lesson from a girl who set out not to teach but live.  Rashmi is her name.  She is so blessed and part of the reason is that she blesses, she is a blessing to us all.   A lamp, Sunil might say.



sajic said...

Thanks for highlighting this. Makes our so-called 'normalities' seem pitifully small.

DJ said...

Thanks for highlighting this little girl's achievement, depite her disabilities. I hope some of these organisations like Lions Club, Rotary and any others will take note and help this family, so that this girl could go further with her studies.

SANDIKA said...

R - Rare
A - Abilities
S - Steady
H - Healthy
M - Mind
I - Incredible

all the best to little Rashmi.

i like this article so much.

Tharunisalai Shamithru said...

very nice article.motivational... I'll print this article to show my daughter.even yesterday I got a meaningful article to read my daughter. Even I study a lesson from Rashmi we can do anything if we want ... her determination .
Thanks for ur meaningful articles.God bless u !