This blog is about new entrants to the Colombo Medical Faculty of the University of Ceylon (as it was then known) in June 1962. Please address all communications to: firstname.lastname@example.org.You may bookmark this page for easier access later.
Header image: Courtesy Prof. Rohan Jayasekara, Dean, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo (2011 - 2014).
Boyd, better known as “Batu” to his friends and “Chula” to his family, was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka where he spent his formative years living in Park Avenue near Campbell Park, Borella. He was the youngest of six brothers and identical twin to Brian Batuwitage. Boyd was schooled at Royal College where he was a keen cricketer. He went on to study medicine at Colombo Medical School in 1962, graduating with the batch of 1967. Soon after graduating he joined his brother, the late Dr Tissa Batuwitage, in Matale as a general practitioner. In 1972, he married Geetha Shriyani Wickramaratchi in Kandy and continued to work in Matale before moving to the United Kingdom in the mid seventies. He undertook further training in geriatrics and psychiatry in the UK before turning to his true passion of general practice. He was appointed Principal General Practitioner at the Treharris Primary Care Health Centre in South Wales and served the local community for over 20 years. Boyd had three children, Surakshi, Larukshi and Thushila who went on to have respective careers in psychology, finance and medicine (anaesthesia). With his support, his wife Shriyani completed postgraduate qualifications, to become a ceramic artist and teacher.
Boyd enjoyed watching cricket and snooker. He was a great fan of David Attenborough, watching his programmes and collecting his books. He was an avid reader and enjoyed travelling, which he did for many years with his wife before his illness progressed. He was a committed Buddhist and undertook several pilgrimages to Buddhist sites around the world. Boyd was keen to help those in need, he supported several charities and sponsored young children from deprived parts of Sri Lanka, enabling them to have the opportunity to attend university. He retired from general practice and moved to Guildford in 2012 where he enjoyed spending time with his family, especially his grandchildren, Aishwari, Tejini, Kashika and Aanya.
Boyd peacefully passed away from Alzheimer’s Dementia surrounded by his loving family on the 9th of December 2018. Boyd will be deeply missed. He was a gentle, kind and private man, whose patience and compassion was greatly respected amongst his family and close friends.
Sent by his loving son with this message:
I’ve also attached details of the date of the funeral service and some pictures of my father.
My head gets clouded with images of the past as I write this in the fading twilight of a winter’s day in England. I left the comfort and sanctuary of my home in Sri Lanka for the bright lights of London exactly 44 years ago. Bringing up children and building up a career has taken much time and effort. Now that too seems a distant memory.
Retirement provides the time and the space to rummage deep into my childhood. Those memories seem to fade and wane as the years pass. I am married to a non-Sri Lankan. Hence our lives do not revolve around my home country, culture or its cuisine. Our friends belong to many different continents. I have tried hard to retain my birth-tongue but disuse has made it hard even to construct a coherent sentence. The huge changes that have taken place in the Sinhala language in my own country makes it doubly difficult. Nowadays I cannot understand much of the Sinhala Radio and TV programmes. I thought YAHAPALANAYA was something about Jaffna until I realized the context was different. My precious Sinhala writing skills have gone with the wind. What has remained with me are the few swear words I was not allowed to use either at school or home.
I am not a regular visitor to Sri Lanka. Despite my deep and lasting roots there, I feel so much like a tourist in the country of my birth. Colombo now is a bustling city fizzing with energy. There are eating houses and restaurants in every street corner and they all seem packed to the rafters with people. On every visit I find the roads increasingly clogged up with vehicles spewing acrid fumes. It is a sign of progress and also one of regress as the infrastructure has not kept up with the times. Even the genteel Nugegoda of my childhood is a cauldron of vehicles and humanity. The known landmarks of my childhood are all gone, demolished or obscured by the growth of new and bigger buildings and the appearance of new highways and byways. I feel disorientated in the city searching for those last remaining vestiges of my lost world.
I grew up in a peaceful Ceylon just released from the clutches of the British Empire. In my childhood the days and nights were quiet beyond belief. Fireflies lit up the dark corners of our garden. There were so few cars on the road. Sundays were particularly tranquil. The morning ritual was to read the Sunday newspapers. Sunday lunch was special, a sumptuous meal with the family, ending with curd and kitul treacle. A brief siesta was broken by the start of Sunday choice at 2pm with that unmistakable signature tune "For each his own" sung by the Ink Spots.
In my retirement, when awake at night, there are always the inescapable journeys to the past. Despite the passage of years I still miss my school friends. There was no shortage of friends in the school boarding. We played cricket in the blistering sun and football in the monsoon rains. Wesley College had a huge Burgher population who brought much fun to life at school. Many of them emigrated to Australia and sadly, reaching them isn’t easy. Holidays were spent in the peaceful countryside where my father was stationed, far away from Colombo. There I made new friends with whom there were new adventures. We went fishing in fast flowing streams and swam in murky ponds. Unlike modern kids who feel imprisoned at home we had the freedom to roam the fields on our bare feet. Sadly, many of the friends have now departed this world. Their youthful faces and friendly smiles still linger in my thoughts. I remember most fondly the closeness that developed in those years, the little tiffs that ensued, the laughter and the pleasures we enjoyed. The sense of loss of those years and those friendships seem indelible.
In those days at lunch, at bars and when meeting friends everyone talked politics. Now politics seem out of bounds not wanting to be on the wrong side and disappear into a white van. My knowledge of SL politics are frozen in time in the 60’s and 70’s. I still remember the Bandaranaikes, NM Perera, Colvin R de Silva and before that D.S and Dudley Senanayake, and John Kotelawala. OEG pulled the strings as Governor General. None of them are around now. I know nothing of the new breed of politicians or which party is in power. The Presidential form of democracy which we have adopted has changed the old order bringing a new dimension to politics. It will always be debated if this was ever necessary.
Before television arrived, it was the wireless that gave us the news and provided entertainment. I recall the Pye radio we owned. It had a green magic eye for easy tuning. Despite the hiss and the crackle we had decent reception at least when the sun was shining. Livy Wijemanne, Vernon Corea, Vijaya Corea, Eardley Peiris and Jimmy Barucha are names I still remember of the announcers who flooded the airwaves. They became celebrities and household names. Now, Radio and TV worldwide are cram-full of advertisements. I cannot fault their news coverage and excellent entertainment. But I still miss the elegance and the charm of the old-fashioned radio which embodied the values of a bygone era of politeness, affability and civility. Perhaps a sign of my age!!
Cricket has been my passion since childhood. At every opportunity I played cricket in some back street, broke windows and got scolded. From then on cricket ran in my blood. My strictly limited talent for playing meant I would be forever a spectator. I am still a supporter of our national team and have spent many happy hours watching the team at Lords. My countrymen have given me immense pleasure over the years. I do wish we could come out of the doldrums back to those winning ways. Speaking with Sri Lankans I get a myriad of reasons for our failures but it worries me not to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I love Sinhala music. Whenever we had visitors, it was a family ritual for us kids to sing those popular songs of Sunil Santha. Those of my vintage tend to stick with the songs of our youth. I followed closely the local music scene until I left Sri Lanka. Since then my Sinhala music repertoire had remained static. I was brought up with the Sinhala cinema of Eddie Jayamanne and Rukmani Devi and those touching scenic tales of village life. Then came the magnetism and brilliance of Henry Jayasena and Gamini Fonseka.The talented producers D.B Nihalsinghe and Lester James Peiris transformed the industry. I still recall their haunting film music and the rags to riches stories. I never saw any Sinhala films after leaving home. Contemporary Sinhala music has retained its links to the past but I’m told the cinema has moved in leaps and bounds to portray real life more closely. The last Sinhala story book I read was Rathu Rosa Mal, a brilliant short story by Gunadasa Amarasekera, written in such elegant prose. I have lost much of my rich culture and heritage but have broadened my horizons and gained enormously from my adopted home.
I am still mesmerised by the beauty and the history of our ancient cities. Kandy is particularly atmospheric in August during the ‘Esala Perahera’. Sri Lanka’s delicious food and breath-taking landscapes has long been talked about. Those living in Sri Lanka take for granted the exquisite beauty of the green terraced paddy fields, blue mountains of the central hills, the shimmering turquoise ocean and the golden sandy beaches that surround us. I miss visiting such places which brought me great joy while growing up. Now they seem so distant.
Marriage must still be a good topic of conversation in Sri Lanka. I have often wondered if the old caste system still prevails. In the old days there was a tug of war between the Karawa and the Govigama castes as to who was superior. One of my school mates who belonged to the Karawa (fisher-caste) said with great conviction "when we eat rice we put the fish on top of the rice". Has the influence of caste declined with greater urbanisation and secular education? Is the caste still a major factor in marriages or have we moved with the times and accepted all humanity are born equal? Does money even out the discrepancies? I wonder if dowries are still in vogue and are considered important in marriages. I assume there are many more marriages now which are not formally arranged. Is there ever a belief in the age old aphorism Amor Vincit Omnia (love conquers everything)? Perhaps, the old days of the "kapuwa" and the arranged meetings of the couple are stories for the Sinhala cinema. In the UK the internet plays a huge part in introducing couples for marriage. The next partner may be just a few clicks of the rodent away.
At the time of independence the population of Ceylon was eight million. The majority lived in villages. There was a powerful aristocracy that ruled us. The Bandaranaike’s, Senanayake’s, Molamure’s are a few of the names that come to mind. The ruling elite lived in the lap of luxury in their mansions with a retinue of servants. The middle class was small and mostly worked for the government. The wind of change blew across our island in the mid 1950’s bringing with it a new dawn, the era of the common man. That was true democracy at work. Thereafter the villagers were better represented in government. I wonder if the aristocracy still exists or has it now merged with the ever-widening middle class.
When I left Sri Lanka there were economic hardships but the country was at peace. Then began the long and destructive ethnic conflict.This shattered the peace and destroyed the lives of our people. Now peace has returned at last. As they rebuild the fractured links I hope they relearn the art of peace. It is my sincere wish we will never again return to those perilous times again.
I have missed my family in Sri Lanka enormously and have paid a heavy price for my desire to live and work abroad. I wasn’t present for the births, weddings and deaths of those most dear to me. I am now a stranger to the new generation born during my absence. I feel a foreigner in the country of my birth as Sri Lanka has moved forward despite the destructive forces of a long ethnic conflict. Although I live happily in England I have left my heart in that beautiful island of my birth and the land of my fore-fathers. Writing about my loss is cathartic and is a perfect way to empty my mind and feel at peace.
Pram had sent a text message that Chula Batuwitage had passed away. Batu was our batch colleague and they were domiciled in UK. Details are not known right now.
I have never met Batuwitage since our graduation in 1967. Pram and some of our colleagues had met him at the recent London Reunion. Perhaps some of Batu's friends in London might know more details.
PS. Since posting the above, I have received an e-mail from Batu's son Dr. Bisanth Batuwitage. Batu's first names were Boyd Tilak. I am not sure whether he was also called "Chula". An e-mail sent out to the batch a little while ago.
I have had many e-mails saying that they are unable to place Batu as a batch colleague. Perhaps the following photograph will help them. The link to our batch blog is also given below. When looking at the batch blog, please read ND's article about the London Reunion of 2017 in "Older posts".
Thanks, Lucky! It is so sad that we spend all those years together in Med school and the next we hear is of the demise of a person. So good of you to inform us. I will breathe a prayer for the family as that's the main way I can mark the occasion.
What a blessing our Blog is! Thanks for all you do.
Cyril Ernest Dear Lucky, Another one of our classmates has left us and our class of 1967 graduates is rapidly declining. Batuwitage was of a quiet demeanor and I had met him only once since we graduated , at a reunion function in England perhaps in the 80’s in Windsor if my memory serves me right. Please convey our sympathies to the family.
The years are rapidly going by and soon it will be the end of our earthly existence. Through the brainchild of your Medical School blog that was created by you and maintained with your tenacity with the help of regular contributors we have been very fortunate indeed to follow the exploits of our classmates in Sri Lanka and abroad. We have been able to rejoice in acclamation of the individual achievements and also sadly lament the loss of dear friends and classmates over the years and the list is steadily growing.It is hard to imagine that it is almost 60 years since the day we entered Medical School in 1962. I am no literary genius to make a contribution to the blog in comparison to your regulars - however, I received an e mail from a close friend Allan Gunasekera my cricket and hockey team mate at St. Benedict’s re friends and friendship which fascinated me that I thought I should share with you. Here it goes -
"Everyone has a friend during each stage of life, but only the lucky ones have the same friend in all stages of life. We have 3 types of friends in life - Friends for a reason, Friends for a season and friends for a lifetime. Remember that the the most valuable antiques are dear old friends. A good friend listens to your adventures, and a best friend makes them with you. If you have nothing in life but a good friend you are rich. Happiness is meeting an old friend after a long lapse and feeling that nothing has changed. Sometimes you put walls up not to keep people out but to see who cares enough to break them down - Socrates. Good times become good memories and bad times become good lessons. A strong friendship doesn’t need daily conversation, doesn’t always need togetherness, as long as the relationship lives in the heart - true friends will never part. Friends are the family we choose for ourselves. We don’t meet people by accident - they are meant to cross our path for a reason. Childhood friendship is the most beautiful memory that can’t ever be replaced. It is not what we have in life but who who we have in our life that matters. Good friends are like stars - You don’t always see them, but you know they are always there. Sometimes I sit and think of all the memories I ‘ve made and smile. Then I smile more at the thought of memories yet to be made. Life always brings tears,smiles and memories. The tears dry, the smiles fade, but the memories last forever. Letting go doesn’t mean you forget the person completely. It just means that you find a way of surviving without them. The most frightening thing about seeing an old friend again is the fear that your friendship is nothing more than a memory. Friends come and go like waves of the ocean, but true ones stick like an octopus on your face. The most painful goodbyes are ones that are never said and never explained. Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory. Friends may change but the memory lasts forever. No matter what happens, some memories can never be replaced. Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart".
The book traces the origins of the University in Peradeniya, and covers the halls of residence, the campus, the various faculties, places of worship, and sports venues. It is beautifully illustrated with color photographs, many showing the campus in bloom and
proves to the reader that this has to be among the prettiest university campuses in the world.
There is a write up about those who contributed to its formation, starting with Sir Ivor Jennings.
Did the book succeed in its mission? The answer is an emphatic yes. It is a collectors item, especially for those fortunate enough to learn in this idyllic setting.
I bought it at BAREFOOT, Kollupitiya. There were no books the following week, presumably they sold out their stock.
PS. This is the entrance to the Stanford Campus in California (see Indra's reply to Sumathi under comments).