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Sagaa Dharmasena lived a full life and moulded some excellent citizens

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G in his initials stood for the very common Gamini. But I have never heard anyone call him by that name. Those who refer to him would refer to him as Sagaa and his equals would call him Dharme and the junior teachers and students would call him Dharmasena Sir.

There was something that prevented students, old boys and his colleagues showing him open love and friendship such as hugging or embracing. There was no easy banter either. But professors and corporate bosses would go down on their knees to worship him. He generated deep respect and a sense of awe. He was slow in his movements and slow and considered in his speech.

When I look back into the past I cannot recall anyone who was angry with Dharme or spoke ill of him. That is strange because as boarding master and Math teacher, his style of discipline should have caused eruptions. The Principal, Col. Rajapakse, depended entirely on him and Dharme never let him down. 

The boarding certainly had its share of disciplining to be done. There were about 225 boys and they were from various ages from grade 3 to A/L. Dharme took over from another outstanding warden – Bertie Fernando. Bertie had to give up the boarding when he fell in love and had to marry.

Dharme knew the boarding and the minor staff who ran the place. There were about 10 other teachers to assist the warden. These teachers had to look after the seven dormitories. Once a month Dharme allowed some relaxation to the masters. They would collect some money amongst them and take the night out, leaving the prefects in charge of the boys. They would go to the late movies and have a good feed and walk back like a group who had had too much to eat and drink. Once they broke into the Victoria Park in the early hours for a sing-song. All these were done in good faith and out of the ken of boys. Any boys who had to be punished would wish he was as far away from Ananda as possible. 

Once a boy was brought to him for breaking into another’s locker. Dharme beat him until he was weak. Not being satisfied, he banged the boy’s head on his table. His nose was broken. The other masters had to rush him to a doctor. Times were such that such incidents were taken as part of discipline.

There was another incident when a boy who was in the tennis court called him names. Dharme went a short distance and turned back, caught the boy and gave him a severe beating. When he was going off, the boy may have thought the beating was over. But no. Dharme came back, caught the boy and beat him again. These boys would remember the beating but would never hold any animosity towards him.

There was also the incident in the classroom. Dharme turned his back to the class and was working out a sum on the board. The boys started laughing. Dharme turned back caught one of the boys and beat him with the wooden duster. It took some time for him to stop. But from that day there was no noise and no disturbance. Results were also good.

All teachers respected him and even though no one was able to get close to him, they would never have anything negative to say about him.

In addition to his class work and the boarding he also was a prominent member of the Teachers’ Guild. He was given in charge of the pay sheet and he had to go to the local bank and encash it. It was a colossal sum of money and he brought it without any escorts. He would then put each one’s money into envelopes and hand them over to the teachers. He would assist in arranging staff trips and school functions such as the Prize Giving. He took charge of the football team and later of the swimming pool.

Hostel boys would never forget to invite him for their functions. Dharme would go gladly and the boys would be so happy to see him.

In 1981, Dharme decided to go to Nigeria to teach. He was sent to a place called Sokoto. He then saw how he missed Ananda where he spent his whole life from the kindergarten up to the university entrance. He entered university, passed his exams and came back as a teacher in June 1959. To begin with the boys didn’t like him but as time went on he proved to be excellent, thus endorsing the confidence S.A. Wijetilleke, the Principal, had placed in him. After his term in Nigeria, he rejoined Ananda in 1988 and finally retired from there.

Retirement did not mean severing connections with Ananda. When the past teachers formed an association 25 years ago, they asked Dharme to be Treasurer and he remained Treasurer until his death. He took his work seriously and collected Rs. 3 million for the teachers. It is from this fund that teachers are given assistance. The Past Teachers’ Association was excellent to keep in touch with Ananda’s old boys and the teachers.

Padma was devoted to him throughout his life and was by his bedside till the last. Both Dharme and Padma were proud of their only son, Suminder, who qualified himself in finance and IT.

Dharme can truly be happy that he lived a full life and moulded some excellent citizens sans borders. We know he earned his rest. He will continue to live in the memory of all those boys all over the world. 

– Upali Ratnayake

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