It was year 1990, I was 10 years old. Having been telling myself I wasn’t good enough, not “Boy” enough, there were two things that I was hanging onto to feel “good enough”. The love from my teachers, due to my own obedience, and my skill in English language. Don’t get me wrong, there were few others who spoke the language well, but we were assessed under three categories; reading, writing, and speaking. There weren’t many who did well in all three, and I was one of the good ones.
I was in Year 5C, Ms. Sheela Perera (also known as Ms. W. V. A. Seelawathi) was my class teacher.
Picture of Ms. Seelawathi from Nalanda Vidyalaya 60th Anniversary Photo Album – 1986
Picture of my 6 year old self from the same photo album – 1986
The story in this article happens around 4 years from this day.
We had a separate teacher to teach us English (whose name I don’t remember). We were told that we will have a competition, related to speech and drama. Little group or solo acts to present English language skills.
I was in a group where I was meant to be a patient, a wounded soldier according to the script, and my good friend, Mudith whom I knew from my Montessori days, was meant to be a doctor.
After so many disruptions and cancellations, we finally had our little show (to ourselves and our teachers) outside the Boys Hostel building.
I performed really bad. I hardly heard my own self. Stage fright mixed with my well developed low self esteem had kicked in. I knew I didn’t do well at all. Mudith did well, I was happy.
Then came Arosha. I liked him, he was my friend. But he was openly very competitive, and I didn’t like that. I could be wrong in this, but I felt that the drive was to be ahead of someone rather than just do for himself. I didn’t like that. But then again, I could be wrong. It could be purely my perception of him, and not true at all.
He was playing a fisherman. He copied Oshin, the main character of a Japanese drama televised in Sri Lankan TV. He finished his act with a little song which I recall to be:
I’m a fisherman!
I’m a fisherman!
I’m a fisherman! am I?
Selling Big Fish,
Selling Small Fish,
Selling Sea Fish,
He was excellent. Hands down, Awesome! I knew it, I was happy. But I felt bad that I couldn’t do so well. I didn’t like feeling this, but I felt it. Nevertheless, I congratulated him, and asked him about his little song. He explained that there were many versions of it, and went on explaining how he prepared. Suddenly, I no longer saw a competitive Arosha. He was happy, bouncy, and accomplished. He won the competition, and got some chocolates as a gift, which he shared with everyone. It was a well deserved victory, and I wanted to feel happy. I was, but deep inside, I was sad. My only hope of being “good enough”, Teacher’s love and English skills, both taken away from me. If only for a moment, it felt like eternity.
I not only failed, but now feel unhappy about someone else’s victory. I didn’t want to feel this. I saw a competitive Nimeshe for the first time that day. I didn’t like that Nimeshe. It didn’t feel like right kind of competition.
How could it have been, when it’s seed was Envy?
– Nim –