Dalugama’s defiance:

A village fights for its soul

Denzil Jayasinghe
2 min readFeb 16, 2024

The year was 1960, and whispers of change hung heavy in the humid Sri Lankan air. Mrs Bandaranaike, a whirlwind of charisma and controversy, had swept into power, her nationalist winds threatening to uproot the traditions that had anchored our village, Dalugama, for generations. One of those traditions, the beating heart of our community, was our Catholic school.

But the government, fueled by suspicion and a thirst for control, declared war. They demanded all Catholic schools be handed over, their doors shutting on the laughter and learning that had nourished our children for years. Fear, cold and sharp, clawed at our hearts. This wasn’t just about bricks and mortar; it was an attack on our faith and our identity.

Dalugama wouldn’t go down without a fight. We, the villagers, rose in unison. Mary Akka, my neighbour and a lioness with eyes that could melt stone, led the charge. Kadayamma, my grandmother, with her simple but wise elder's voice raspy with conviction, stood shoulder-to-shoulder with her. Even I, a five-year-old clutching my mother’s hand, felt the groundswell of defiance.

Day and night, we guarded our school. Men, women, children — we took turns, a human shield against the encroaching darkness. The air thrummed with prayers and whispered resolve. Father Renchen, our beloved priest, a beacon of faith with a booming laugh and a thick European accent, stood among us. Though foreign-born, he was one of us, his heart woven into the fabric of Dalugama.

The standoff stretched, tension crackling like monsoon lightning. But Dalugama held strong. Our unity, our unwavering belief in what was right, proved too powerful to ignore. A compromise was struck, bittersweet but necessary. The schools remained under government control, but the Church retained a say. Father Renchen had to leave a painful scar on our collective soul.

Yet, his legacy lived on. Boys were named after him, a testament to the impact of a man who dared to call Dalugama home. In that act of defiance, we found a flicker of hope in that melding of cultures. We had weathered the storm, our traditions battered but not broken.

This is the story of Dalugama in the sixties, a testament to the fierce love for community, faith, and courage that burns brightest in the face of adversity. It’s a story that, like the island itself, bears the marks of change and whispers of resilience, a reminder that even the smallest village can hold an indomitable spirit.

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Denzil Jayasinghe

Lifelong learner, tech enthusiast, photographer, occasional artist, servant leader, avid reader, storyteller and more recently a budding writer