14 December 2016

Udda didn’t do nothing — he did it all

Damith Udawatte is his name.  Damith Chanda Udawatte, to be precise.  I didn’t know he was Damith, so forget about knowing Chanda.  He was ‘Udda’, then and now.  He was Udda for more than 45 years to those who entered Royal Junior School in 1971.  

Life was not too kind to him, but then again one might argue that he was unkind to himself.  The better way to put it is that Udda didn’t think of himself.  He thought about other people.  He wanted everyone to laugh the way he laughed, he wanted people to have fun even if it meant that they were laughing at his expense.  

Udda had many friends.  He was a member of many groups, only one of which I was associated with, the Royal College Class of ’83, but from what I’ve heard for Udda is was all the same — all about making people feel good, making sure everyone enjoyed, making sure that there’ll be laughter through it all and a smile at the end of the day.  Or night, as was usually the case.  

He was in my grade but we were never in the same class.  Not everyone knew his full name, but Udda knew us all and always made us feel that we had been an important part of his life from Day One, even though this wasn’t the case.  

There are lots of Udda-Stories, but let me tell put on record just the one that I recounted when the Class turned 50 and celebrated in style (“50 Shades of Blue”).  

‘Kataya’, the inimitable Vice Principal of Royal College, aka E.C. Gunasekara, features in the story.  It was about some hanky-panky concerning season tickets.  Udda knew who was responsible.  Kataya wasn’t sure if Udda was involved and being Kataya did not ask Udda to blab.   Not that Udda would have of course.  Udda’s father had been summoned and it was in his presence that Kataya had fired his questions.

‘Did you do it?’ he had asked.

‘No sir,’ Udda had responded, looking Kataya in the eye.

‘Did you do it?’ the voice was louder and more threatening the second time .

‘No sir,’ Udda had insisted.  

The question was asked a third time and this time Kataya and stood up, resting his hands on his desk. Those who know Kataya and especially those who have seen him take up this posture would know how intimidating he would be.

‘Did you do it?’ Kataya had thundered.

That was it.  Udda lost control.  He looked Kataya straight in the eye and shouted, ‘No sir, I didn’t do it!’

That was it.  Pataas.  Kataya’s hand found Udda’s cheek.

‘Get out!’ 

Udda had duly fled, thinking to himself, ‘I am going to be sacked!’  

Later, he learned that Kataya had dropped his voice, probably smiled, and told his father, ‘Your son didn’t do it — I slapped him only because he raised his voice.’

When I related this story to my wife this morning after learning about Udda’s latest prank, she observed ‘back then there were teachers who could do that to a boy in front of his parents!’

‘And back then there were parents who could take it because they understood,’ I added.  

Udda went.  We don’t know if he laughed or cried, but we know he has no real reason to regret.  He did it his way.  No regrets.  No debts.  As free as he always was.  Like a child.   He was still a kid when he died at the age of 51, but a kid who lived a hundred years; no blank spots or gaps for he filled them all.  

He held an entire class together simply because he didn’t care much for labels (of any kind).  He knew everyone, including many who didn’t know him.  He was at ease and put people at ease.   

His close friend Harshana Adikary, reflecting on our dear friend and a collage of Udda-photos put together by Prasanga Ukwatte, wrote: ‘Everywhere Udda is there- bigmatch to AGM, to stag to everywhere. He has created a big void.’

Udda counted himself in, then.  He did it his way.  With malice to none.  He would want us to laugh. Sorry Udda, not this time. 


ramli said...

Thanks Malinda, sums u Uda, perfectly, always welcoming, always positive, never a negative thought, may he find peace