In Pursuit of a Perfectly Imperfect Icebreaker: Searching for Sachini

It was a memorable day in 2021. I was happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time. It’s just another ordinary day in the pandemic era… But was it really so ordinary? On that day, I was absolutely sure of three things.

1.I had no idea what to wear

2.My makeshift camera stand was on the verge of toppling

And,

3.If the power decided to go out for the third time that day, I would pull my hair out.

A few weeks had been leading up to this day. A moment that had me tossing and turning in my bed for about a week. A moment that had me daydreaming in the nth zoom lecture on Friday. The reason for the multiple voice recordings and the mountain of messages pestering Gavelier Chandula, my mentor. Just 6 minutes to make an impression. Was I ready to take that first step?

It was none other than the day that would make or break my Gavel journey. The day of my CC1. The icebreaker. The clock chimed 6.00 and it went a little like this…

 “Let me take you back to a memorable day in 2010. I’m in my room it’s a typical Tuesday night… was playing on the radio and at that moment, there were 3 things I was absolutely certain about,

  1. My favorite color was most definitely orange and not just any orange, but the color of a sunset.
  2. Fearless by Taylor Swift was the best album of my entire existence.
  3. And my entire existence… was about to come to a swift end. My brother was watching X Files on full volume while we were home alone like a psychopath. I was sure I was going to get murdered by my brother (because of my pestering) or by an alien within the hour.

Thankfully, I lived to tell the tale.

I’m Sachini Maleesha Wijewardena.

But who am I really?

Let’s roll it back to the beginning.  

To the 4th of May 2000.

A date I have absolutely no recollection of. Mainly because I was unborn. And no, I do not mean undead, I promise, I’m not a zombie.

You might be confused so let me clarify. It was my brother’s 4th birthday and last birthday as an only child. A day that my brother reminisces fondly every year, and on some days, every. single. hour. Hehe. I was born a few months later on the 21st of August.

My first major identity was defined by virtue of having an Ayya. My parents still embarrass me to this day by bringing up a well-worn-out story. An older gentleman had asked podi me, “Duwe, what’s your name?”. To which I had replied with a completely self-assured,

“My name is Nanga.”

In my early years, I was yet to exist out of that identity. Nanga is by far my ultimate alter ego, the most self-assured person I know, with an obsession for sour sweets resulting in numerous dreaded visits to the dentist’s office. The dentist has warned me that I’ll be needing dentures by the time I’m 30.

Let’s fast forward to 2006. My first year of school. Pre-2006, my memories are faded at best. Fortunately too, because I have less dull stories to bore you with.

On the first day of school, I walked up to those big blue gates of Visakha Vidyalaya, my mother’s alma mater, clutching tightly to her hand. Little did I know that my life would change forever.

It all started with a mix-up. I walked into class 1A, my house badge proudly pinned… on the wrong side of my school uniform. Up to that point when I was not being Nanga, I had gone by Maleesha, my 2nd name. So it blew my little mind when I found out that there was another Maleesha in my class. My teacher decided that it would just not do to have two students with the same name. Oh! What a tragedy! The teacher declared, Maleesha, whose first name was ‘Maleesha’, got to keep ‘Maleesha’, and I had to go by my first name, ‘Sachini’. It was a new era of my life, a new school, a new name, and a new me.

Ironically, I would soon find out that Sachini was one of the most common names of my generation. Were all these parents so enthralled by Sachin Tendulkar as my parents were? Enamored enough to name their daughters after him? What would my life have been like if I were named something unique like Druvini Sandachaaya as was initially planned by my mother? Who knows?

For the most part, in school, I was a jack of many trades but a master of… none. Whether it be in the classroom, on stage, as a debater, a junior prefect, a girl guide, … I had many hats. There were many days where my mother would joke, half-seriously that I spent more time at school than the principal did. (An obvious exaggeration because madam actually lives there. You can see where I get the exaggeration gene from).

Some of my favorite memories are from the moonlit nights of drama rehearsals, where the feeling of belonging was almost tangible and where it seemed just possible to break a 40 year-long losing streak.

In my last two years at school, I solidified my nerd status and now here I am a first-year med student wondering what I’ve got myself into… But existential dread is a topic for another time.

Growing up in the shadow of my know-it-all brother and my doctor parents, I was secretly proud whenever someone I looked up to stopped calling me Thisura’s sister or Malika’s and Manjula’s daughter and instead called me Sachini. This is despite the ensuing confusion about which Sachini they were referring to.

Even now there are 3 ‘Sachini’s in my batch at the Colombo Medical Faculty, and having a common name is a double-edged sword. The relatable terror that comes when the lecturer asks you to unmute and answer the question is matched for me, in two times out of three, with an unbelievable sense of relief when it turns out they meant a different Sachini.

Let us bring it back to the original question. Who am I? Am I the little kid who wore reddai hattai on a wrong day for the school’s Avurudu celebration? Or the socially awkward and slightly tone-deaf unapologetic Taylor Swift fan? Am I Nanga? Sachini? Maleesha? Wijewardena as one teacher loved calling me? To you, I may be Sachi or Sach. There’s even one person out there in the world who thinks my name is Malaysia. But that’s a long story.

I’ve reached two conclusions.

  1. I’ve rambled on for the last 5 minutes.
  2. I am one and all of those identifiers, and that’s perfectly ok.

And whenever I’m in doubt and I’m Searching for Sachini, I just look in the mirror and say,

Sachini! You’re the kind of girl who can insert a Taylor Swift song lyric into any moment, and what you’re looking for has been here the whole time. Can’t you see that I’m the one who understands you, been here all along so why can’t you see… that.”

My mind goes blank. I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. That post-speech moment is really an indescribable moment of epiphany.

Phew! CC1, done and dusted! I took the first step, but I have a long way to go. Frankly, I’m excited to see where this road takes me. And I don’t how it gets better than this (another T Swift reference for good measure, the 5th if I’m not mistaken (: ) but I’m looking forward to discovering bigger and better things right here at the Gavel Club of UOC!

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