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Government Gazette

The village in the jungle

"The jungle and the people who lived in the Sinhalese villages fascinated, almost obsessed me in Ceylon. They continued to obsess me in London, in Putney of Bloomsbury and in Cambridge. The Village in the Jungle, was a novel in which I tried to somehow or other vicariously to live their lives."
Leonard Woolf -1914

I must confess that it was the article by Kalakeerthi Edwin Ariyadasa in this newspaper sometime ago, perhaps a long time ago, with the title "100 years after the Village in the Jungle", is what inspired and prompted me to write this article. However, there will end the comparison between the two; for this article has nothing further to do with the book Village in the Jungle by Leonard Woolf or Edwin's article, except for the title. I write this as a tribute to my good friend Edwin, who had passed four score and ten years of his long journey through planet earth.

May the powers of the universe, bless him with a century or more years of journeying the planet. I also write this with a heavy heart. I have known Edwin from 1973, soon after my return from Brunei where I had spent a good part of my life: as a student commencing in late fifties and until my move to London; and later in early seventies as the Film Producer to the Government of Brunei.

Invitation

In fact, I was instrumental in starting the Government Film Unit there on the invitation of my friend, Hassanal Bolkia, the present Sultan of Brunei. Edwin will leave us someday, as all must do. It will be a sad day for me because, more than miss him - he lives in our hearts - I will miss reading his contributions, his knowledge, and his command of the English language. Only one who has the same mastery can appreciate the masterly use of the language; and it will probably take over a decade for Sri Lanka to produce someone with equal abilities. I must thank - apart from my parents - the British, mostly Scottish, and the Indian teachers in Brunei for grooming me into what I am today; and for inculcating ethics and values, and above all, the command of the English language: a language that opened me to limitless knowledge. At Royal College, I learnt the basics; but it was Brunei, a nation unheard by many at that time and may be even now, and the teachers there who primed and prepared me for life; and thereafter, it was the lessons of life, taught by life. I feel sad to think of our students in Sri Lanka these days. We neither have competent teachers wedded to the well-being of the students, nor men and women of calibre who could open the minds eye of students.

Prepared

If we take the world to be a jungle, and many have compared it to one; then Sri Lanka is nothing but a village in the jungle, surrounded by jungle. The jungle is not kind to people. It will not tolerate frailty of body and mind; and for those who are that - frail of body and or mind - the unknown terrors of the phantoms of the forest would consume them without hesitation. Hell, for instance, is not hot, or cold. Nor is it deep below ground, or somewhere in the sky. Instead, it is a place on Earth filled with sucking bogs, disfiguring diseases and millions of tiny flesh-eating creatures called politicians - not to mention their cohorts. Hell is a jungle, and it is monstrously green; and is the place we live in.

Thus, this jungle would destroy the sanity of the mind if we are, not prepared for it. If we are to make the next generation and the generations to come, fit to journey in this world that is a jungle of intolerance, green as the jungle with envy, where everything is mere words that pour not from the heart, a world of suspicion, mockery, and anger; we need to devise new ways of learning. We need to drop meaningless conversations and promises. To live in this jungle; every inch of the ground needs to be earned, and done so with much exertion of the intellect and wisdom. Thus, we need to teach the generations to come to lift mountains; to hunt wearing a mamba for a headband and a lion for a belt; to toss trees instead of spears, and turn elephants into footstools; and convert rivers into highways and send envying crocodiles scurrying into the reeds for cover. Our present methods of education is inadequate, to say the least, and is fit only to turn students into totem poles.

About a dozen times during the day, the wind drives over the sky the swollen clouds that water the earth copiously. After that, the sun shines brightly, as if freshly bathed, and floods with a golden luster, the rocks, the river, the trees, and the entire jungle. Education ought to be like that sun. It should flood with golden luster of intellect and wisdom, the minds of students. Teachers ought to be like the wind that drives the swollen clouds of knowledge that waters the student's mind. Instead, what do we have today? Students of words - shut up in schools, colleges, universities, and recitation-rooms, for ten or fifteen years - who come out at last with a bag of wind, a memory of words, and do not know a thing.

Blame

Is this what we call education? As usual, I must blame the politicians, though this time round, our educators carry an equal burden for turning schools and schooling increasingly irrelevant to the great enterprises of the planet. No one believes anymore that scientists are, trained in science classes or politicians in civics classes or poets in English classes. The truth is that schools do not really teach anything except how to obey orders.

This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators, but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions. Although teachers do care and do work very, very hard; the institution is psychopathic - it has no conscience. Hence, all what an institution does is to ring a bell and the young man in the middle of writing a poem must close his notebook and move to a different cell where he must memorize that humans and monkeys derive from a common ancestor. Thus, the whole process is a mere pretence of education and learning; of letting schooling get in the way of education. I feel sorry indeed for the present generation of students. People with no knowledge of what education ought to be, are in charge of determining what education is; what education and learning ought to be.

Trust

Finally, I hope that our students learn that on a hard jungle journey, nothing is as important as having a team one can trust. Relationships are, built on trust; and as you wade through the jungle of life, you need to believe that the essence of trust is not in its bind, but in its bond. Hence, find and hold the hand of the person whom you love and trust, rather than expecting them to hold yours.

emember that it takes years to build up trust, and it only takes suspicion, not proof, to destroy it. Love all, but trust a few. After all, cuts, scars, bruises, lies and fake laughs; promises broken and lost loves will all be a part of your journey through the village in the jungle.

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