My gratitude to a role model and a great teacher who made a significant difference in helping my scholastic advancement. I was one of many students at Royal College, Colombo, who were fortunate to have had Mr. Vellupillai Arasaratnam teach us triple mathematics. As a teacher, his dedication to teaching was total; his commitment to teaching was so complete that over the years it enabled thousands of us to profit in developing our professions.
With my village background in 1957, I entered Royal College and my lower school years were not my happy years. I had to fight my way for three years to keep away from the last placing in class at term tests; it was like learning to swim by jumping in the deep end of the pool. As the result, I missed participating in any extra curricular activities, including sports.
As years passed, I progressed slowly and got necessary credit passes in my first attempt at the General Education Certificate (Ordinary Level) and did take part in sports and extracurricular activities. The transformation was made possible due to dedicated and wonderful teachers in the staff during that period; but one teacher needs special mention, that was Mr. Vellupillai Arasaratnam for double Mathematics, who laid the foundation to enable me to pass all four subjects at General Education Certificate (Advanced Level) examinations.
Earlier, I remember how Mr. Arasaratnam conducted for us extra classes on many Saturday mornings at school prior to us sitting for the G.C.E (O/L) Examinations to complete the syllabus in Pure and Advance Mathematics in his own time at no extra cost to us students.
In the same year as we were preparing for the O/L examinations, Mr. Arasaratnam walked into our class to conduct his maths tutorials on the morning scholarship examination held annually to judge the best mathematics student for the year was about to start elsewhere in the school. He pulled few of us and were sent to face the exam. It is history now that we were turned away from the examination hall as we had not registered ourselves ahead for the exams.
I realized then that my ‘Maths Guru’ had high esteem of my mathematical capabilities and it proved correct five years later. My lower grades at the A/L examination deprived me from gaining admission to the local University Engineering Faculty. That forced me to move overseas, to read Mechanical Engineering Degree in England, UK. It was the good foundation provided by my ‘Maths Guru’, that enabled me to get high grades in the first year exams and the top scores including 100 marks for mathematics won me a scholarship for the full degree course with full refund of the first year fees.
Immediately after graduation, I returned to Sri Lanka and made it a point to meet Mr. Arasaratnam at Royal to express my gratitude and he was happy indeed with my academic progress.
I returned to UK and never met him again and later learnt from his brother Prof. V. Thrmaratnam, he had moved to live in New Zealand, where he lived till he breathed his last on 27 June 2017.
Mr. Vellupillai Arasaratnam, as a teacher played a significant role at the appropriate time in my life, that contributed to the scholastic advancement during secondary education at Royal College. For that alone I salute my ‘Maths Guru’!