They were right at the gate as we entered Tanamalvilla center. I hadn't seen those children before and was wondering who they were. They must be here to play, I thought. On the narrow dirt road, there wasn't a space for us to pass them through. The vehicle we were on came to halt. One of the boys came around and knocked the windwo where Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne, Founder of Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement, was seated. He slid his window and the boy said something and pointed to a girl nearby. I didn't understand. They seemed little hestitant. Finally, a girl took a book out from a bag laying on the ground.
They brought the book and handed it over to Dr. Ariyaratne. We learnt it was a 10th grade English book published by government. One of the chapters read: The Meeting With Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne, The President, The Lanka Jathika Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement. The children, I could see, were thrilled to meet the person on the book. It was amazing, I couldn't believe it. They asked several questions to him. I didn't understand. Dr. Ariyaratne translated to me, they had asked if everything in the book was true.
Dr. Ariyaratne didn't know that there was a chapter on him on a book. He recalled a person coming to meet him and interviewed but had never seen the book or the chapter.
Back in the days he was teacher- a science teachar at Nalanda College. That is where the first seeds of Sarvodaya was sown. In 1958, he took his students to a Shramadana camp is one of the poorest villages in Sri Lanka. That Shramadana eventually bloosomed to become Sri Lanka's largest community based organization.
The children followed him to his room and a little session was conducted for them on the ground. They asked lots of questions from his early childhood to founding of Sarvodaya and his international awards. The loving teacher answered all their questions. They took tons of notes. They were going to write an essay.
Later, I asked the children if they had known him or seen him besides in the book. They said no. They were so thrilled I could read in their eyes. I asked them how was it like to meet him in person, they all had one word, "Amazing!"
As I witnessed the joy and excitement in the eyes of those children, I simply was thrilled and immensely inspired. Afterall, How many times in life that you get to meet a person that you read about in the book anyway?