Tuesday, May 15, 2018
30 May 1962 was a red letter day for 166 of us who embarked on a new journey in life. Although we started attending lectures on 4 June 1962, we had to register ourselves as medical students on 30 May. So, our professional careers in medicine really began that day.
Forget for a moment, the ceremony arranged by our honourable seniors to welcome us, and it was indeed an unforgettable day when young men and women from all parts of Sri Lanka converged on the Colombo Medical Faculty for registration as medical students. Although we had never met each other before (except those who entered from the same school), we lost no time in making new friends while at the same time, it was an occasion to meet old school friends whom we had not met for a long time.
As we approach this date, three of us (ND, Speedy and myself) have been working behind the scenes, planning to commemorate the event and pay tribute to our departed colleagues in a fitting manner. We encountered some difficulties initially as all planning had to be done while on travel, but thanks to modern communication technology, we successfully overcame whatever problems we faced. I am on holiday in the United States, Speedy was touring New Zealand and Australia and ND was in Bangkok. No wonder the blog looks empty right now! Access to the Internet and working with new equipment in unfamiliar territory were some of the problems. In the end, we have come out with the final product and we hope our batch colleagues in particular, will like what we have come up with.
A short note from Speedy:
A short note from Speedy:
As you read this special post, you will find that ND and Lucky have said what has to be said in their own inimitable styles. Suffice to say that this project was most worthwhile and yet again shows the value of the Blog which Lucky initiated. I find it hard to believe that it is over 50 years since we began this incredible journey.
Good luck and very best wishes,
Remembrance Day - 30th May 2018By Nihal (ND) Amerasekera MBBS(Cey) FRCP(UK) FRCR(London)
It was the Swinging Sixties. Memories of amber nectar, tall tales and late nights whizz around my head as I recall those years of long ago. Entry into the Faculty of Medicine was the culmination of years of preparation and sacrifice. We still had the security of home and our parents paid the bills. We dreamed it was a passport to fame and fortune. There was such a great sense of myopic optimism, we lost ourselves in the adulation. Life always has ways to bring us back to reality!!
The dreaded ‘rag’ began as we assembled at the Faculty for the registration on that fateful 30th day in May 1962. We were warned of this ordeal and arrived here in a fatalistic mood. Psychopaths and masochists rode the thermals, like vultures, blocking off the entrances and exits for us ‘hapless freshers’. Life in medicine for the one hundred and fifty students began on the 4th of June 1962. The rag continued for a further two weeks as we commenced our course and there was more of it after the ‘Law-Medical’. After a sheltered life thus far, I watched with numbed disbelief this man’s inhumanity to man. Life at the ‘Block’ was a baptism of fire. Signatures, revisals and study filled our days and nights. The threat of having to ‘repeat’ generated a toxic atmosphere and furred up our coronaries. Dr SS Panditharatne expected much from us. Fortunately, Prof M.J Waas brought some anatomical humour to brighten up our lives. How can we ever forget what passes through the foramen magnum, apart from food!!Dr. Lester Jayawardene earned our respect as a great teacher and an encouraging mentor. Thankfully, such intensely stressful teaching methods and the ‘fanatical’ study of anatomy have now been consigned to history. Prof. A. A Hoover was a kind and dedicated teacher who showed us the ‘delights’ of the Krebs cycle. Biochemistry had to be memorised. What was retained when we climbed down the stairs from the lectures evaporated before we reached Kynsey Road. Prof A.C.E Koch and his colleagues gave us a good grounding with their fine lectures and tutorials. The acoustics of the Physiology lecture theatre were particularly resonant and the stamping that went on to appreciate the jokes brought jollity to our lives. Dr Carlo Fonseka did much to help us understand human physiology. Dr Valentine Basnayake was a kind man. His useful tutorials were held in a darkened room with all the curtains drawn. I’m unsure if this was due to his migraine or his desire for cave living in the 20th Century. It was simply too soporific!!
In the third and fourth years there was a plethora of subjects. These required hard study and a keen memory. All through the final 3 years, clinical work took precedence with endless clinical appointments and ward classes. We were such a diverse lot of scholars, saints and sinners. Despite the stress and the mayhem, Cupid stretched his bow and shot his arrows in the Faculty. There were many fizzing romances that bloomed and flourished whilst others faded and perished before our eyes. The trauma and hardship of the course brought us closer. Little groups and cliques formed within our batch. Some were from the same school, some lived near to each other and others studied together. Bloemfontein, Jeewaka and ‘Hopper house’ provided safe lodgings. Academics, sportsmen, musicians and the jolly types all mingled well to become friends. Friendships were made and firmed in the canteen and common room which was the social hub of the Faculty where laughter was endemic.
Although renowned for their la dolce vita and bohemian lifestyle, medical students’ life wasn’t a bed of roses. At home or hostel, trapped in solitary confinement, books remained our constant companion. Our bedrooms were cluttered with slips of paper, stacks of notes and piles of books. For the first 2 years, Cunningham’s Manuals became my pillow at night. They had muscle fibres stuck to them and some pages were glazed with human fat from the dissections. Samson Wright’s text book looked pristine but needed a degree in English to understand. Textbook of Physiology and Biochemistry by Bell, Davidson and Scarborough was a good door stopper. Muir’s textbook of Pathology required time and patience to comprehend of which I had neither. The late great Prof. G.H Cooray was meticulous. He had an air of gravitas that commanded respect. His comprehensive notes became the bedrock of my knowledge of Pathology. His mantra of rubor, calor, dolor, tumor and functio laesa will resonate in that lecture theatre forever. With their fine teaching, Prof S.R Kottegoda and Dr N.D.W Lionel had the remarkable ability to make that huge mass of knowledge interesting. But with the ravages of time what remains now is just anorexia, nausea and vomiting. We had a superbly written text book by D.R Laurence which was studded with laconic British humour to lighten the load. Forensic Medicine had tremendous appeal giving us hope to solve gruesome murders, like Sherlock Holmes. The textbook by Sydney Smith gave us a glimpse of the cloak and dagger world outside. The subject was well presented by the lectures of Prof HVJ Fernando and Dr Nandadasa Kodagoda. Such great emphasis was placed on McNaughten's rules of 1840. Although we appreciate its convoluted logic none of us ever used it in our working lives. Prof Dissanayake’s enthusiasm for Parasitology was infectious. We had a room full of students itching and scratching during those lectures. His superior knowledge, eloquent delivery and superb notes didn’t require any further reading. With his monotonous drone, the enigmatic Prof Terence Chapman taught an important but dull subject. Those who fell asleep in the warmth of the lecture theatre had to read Fairbrother's Textbook of Bacteriology. Dr JPT Jayasundera from the Medical Research Institute who had a Hitleresque moustache and a ‘distinguished’ limp supervised our laboratory work. I am reminded of those bacteriology practicals when the soups at home looked like Robertson’s cooked meat medium. Public Health lectures by Prof O.E.R Abhayaratne were light entertainment in memorable English prose laced with rhyming poetry. His cyclostyled notes (including all his jokes) were available for Rs.5.00 courtesy of the ‘Marker’. The Dean, with his large frame was naturally imposing and filled any room he entered. His kind avuncular manner endeared him to his students. His daughter, Rohini, was in our batch. Despite her high profile, she had no airs and graces and soon became one of us. Prof Earle De Fonseka inspired a generation of musicians as the Conductor of the Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka. But his lectures on statistics was no music to my ears. It just got in through one ear and left through the other, not much sticking in between. Prof Milroy Paul was a legend. His excellent common-sense approach to surgery made it all look so easy until I started reading Bailey & Love's Short Practice of Surgery. The book is an encyclopaedia that requires a crane to lift and an accessory brain to remember. Fortunately, Prof R.A Navaratne introduced us to the manageable Text Book of Surgery by Macfarlane and Thomas. He was a brilliant surgeon with a logical mind but his lectures were a prolonged mumble. The good Prof treated us with dignity, a rare commodity in those days. Davidson's Principles and Practice of Medicine remained our Bible with practical help from the Clinical Methods by Hutchison and Hunter. Prof K.Rajasuriya was a dedicated teacher and an excellent clinician. He was a complex person of whom we knew so little except he was unpredictable and had a volcanic temper. I will also remember him for his compassion towards his patients and his succinct wit during that eventful two-month appointment. Obstetrics and Gynaecology certainly needed more than the proverbial two fingers. Prof D.A Ranasinghe was rather fastidious and impatient, making his appointment demanding. It was hard to fathom if his ‘side kick’ of a registrar was a help or a hindrance as I survived with unease and anxiety. The Professor’s teaching, Dr T. Viswanathan’s lectures and Ten Teachers textbook gave us a sound grounding to clear the hurdle of the Finals. The Faculty Library with its unmistakable smell of wisdom was the last resort to find those pearls of knowledge that had eluded me thus far. By some quirk of fate those yawning gaps in my knowledge had the remarkable ability to appear in the examinations.
The pernicious environment of medical education of the time was not for the faint-hearted. Insults, humiliation and verbal abuse that were doled out required a thick skin and broad shoulders. We tread cautiously and endured the arrogance and conceit in silence in the hope of better times. I will let you to imagine the consequences if any of us protested against the treatment we received. The monolithic establishment and the Faculty’s corridors of power conveniently turned a blind eye. With the passage of time, recriminations have disappeared and what remains is loyalty and respect. Despite the hardships and the privations, ours was the golden age of medical education. I still consider our Professors, lecturers and clinical tutors as some of the best in the world. They were dedicated teachers and were keen to impart their knowledge. I marvel at their clinical skills and recoil at their egotistical arrogance. We remember them all with gratitude. To me personally, Drs Wickrema Wijenaike, Ernie Peiris, D.J Attygalla and R.S Thanabalasundrum stood out as brilliant teachers of clinical medicine. Prof R.P Jayawardene with his effervescent personality made learning lively and fun. The ward classes of Dr Darell Weinman and George Ratnavale were rousing, motivational and pure theatre. They taught us the intricate logic of Neurology and the crisp craft of case presentation. I remember less of the surgeons but recall the brilliant ward classes of Drs PR Anthonis, K.G Jayasekera, LDC Austin, DF DeS Gunawardene and NAJ Niles. Being a brilliant comedian, on his ward rounds, Dr Niles’ side-splitting jokes brightened up our days. At the new Lady Ridgway Hospital Prof CC De Silva and Dr WJ Gomes introduced us to Paediatrics with courtesy and grace. Drs A.M Mendis and T. Viswanathan were excellent teachers. Their brilliant ward rounds and classes at the De Soysa Maternity Hospital were a pleasure minus that all too familiar culture of fear. Ours was a comprehensive training that included Ophthalmology, ENT, OPD and Orthopaedics. Haematology was brilliantly taught by Drs Willie Ratnavale from the Glass House and Doris Peiris from the GHC. Training in Venereal Diseases was done in a seedy corner of a dark alley near the GHC. It was conducted by Dr C.S Ratnatunge and Mrs. Indrani Jayawardene. They taught us everything we needed to know of the carnal desires and the heavy price of indiscretions. Chancres and chancroid grew like flowers on the offending organs. Perhaps it encouraged a generation of students to avoid those illicit pleasures of the flesh.
Away from the books and the Faculty bubble, there were many events and social functions. They helped us to bond. We started with the infamous Law-Medical match whose legend still lives on. Our Block Concert was an epic with unbridled erotic humour and sensational performances which have now entered the folklore of the Faculty. There was a large gathering of medical students at the Health Department Sports Club to listen to Prof. HVJ Fernando and Dr WDL Fernando, sing in forensic detail, the grim and grisly tale of “the officers daughter who hanged and died”. Some of our clinical teachers gave us memorable dinners at the end of the appointments. One such dinner by Dr Oliver Medonza is fondly remembered for the sumptuous meal, plentiful booze and the spontaneous song by the late Tilak Dayaratne. This raised eyebrows and plenty of smiles inevitably livening up the occasion. Then there were the Public Health field trips to the Labugama reservoir and the smelly sewage works at Mattakkuliya. There were visits to the Mental Hospital at Angoda and also to the Infectious Diseases Hospital. Travelling together in groups was such great fun. We sang and danced at the memorable and raucous evening booze-ups in the Men’s Common Room. At these events, with his strumming guitar, The Dark Knight, JCF sang in graphic detail the itchy tale of “the dance of the phthirus pubis”. There was a Dance with greater elegance and grace held annually at the King George’s Hall of the University’s Science Faculty at Reid Avenue. We called it the Colours night. Amidst the glitz and the glamour, the compulsive beat of the Harold Seneviratne Combo lit up our amorphous yearnings!! It was that kind of night. We kept to the Faculty tradition of a Final Year Trip. As our coach was whining up the twists and bends of the central hills, Lucky Abey sang his own sensuous satirical version of the Seekers favourite “The Carnival is over”. It was a parody par excellence. We gathered in the Badulla HO’s quarters (called “The Igloo” which I am told has since been demolished). There, Lubber’s memorable performance took centre stage. In the chill night-air he wore just his tie and nil else. When asked who he was, he said “I am Argyle Robertson’s pupil”. Even now, this legendary moment never fails to raise a smile. That was a fitting farewell which none of us will ever forget.
Although in the Faculty and in our own batch females were well represented, it was not so in the previous generations. The Faculty then was a Gentlemen’s Club and was changing, all but slowly. Despite the new-found freedom, hippie culture and the prevalent permissive society, compared to nowadays, the girls and boys lead separate lives. They cherished the old-fashioned concept of modesty. There were some gallant lads and liberal lasses who mixed freely. Many of the lads could just about pluck up courage for a wolf whistle from afar. The girls would have brought elegance, charm and glamour to the Men’s Common Room, the Law-Medical, “Block Nite” and the Final Year Trip. Their presence would have prevented the embarrassing excesses. When we were students, there were very few female consultants and senior lecturers. I recall just a few who were brilliant in their own fields - Drs Priyani Soysa, Stella de Silva, Rajeswary Rajakariar, Doris Peiris, Dr Mrs Yoganathan and Daphne Attygalla. We salute their intellectual brilliance, tenacity and courage.
Thus far, endless examinations and revisions had usurped our youth. After a gruelling five years we saw the light at the end of the tunnel. But there was a problem. We had to pass the demanding Final Year examination. The ‘Finals’ hit us like a typhoon. Its trauma was soon forgotten as we emerged as doctors in 1967. When the results were published, that was a defining moment. As the sunset on our student days, there was a new dawn of a career in Medicine. Although we left the Faculty it never really left us. After the brief year of internship we went our separate ways. While some remained in our motherland, others moved to the far corners of the globe. Then events intervened and the grim reality of getting on with life took over. Our careers, marriage and bringing up families usurped our energies. It gave us great satisfaction to see our own batch-mates reach the dizzy heights in their selected fields. The spotlight of success brought its own challenges. Time ticked on and decades passed swiftly. Then our children flew the family nest. But we overcame that emptiness by immersing ourselves in the profession. After a lifetime in Medicine, retirement appeared in the horizon. The fateful day came all too soon. We bade a sad goodbye to our professional life for which we had worked so hard for so long. That was never easy.
Life and times and the profession has changed enormously. Laborious history taking is now a lost art. Pharmaceuticals, laboratory medicine and diagnostic imaging have made tremendous strides. Patient’s’ rights have come to the forefront. During our working lives despite the ructions caused by the human failings of greed, avarice and selfishness, thankfully, some of the niceties of doctoring has survived. We are now at the receiving end of healthcare. In our sunset years it is the friendships, family and medicines that sustain us. We are grateful for every hour of everyday. Time has stolen the life and the energy we possessed in our youth. Now our every action is taken over by gravity. We all have changed so much. The many reunions have brought us together giving us tremendous joy. Each reunion now is also a farewell for some. Those years in the Faculty have changed the course of our lives and helped make us who we are today.
Considering the quirks and achievements, our batch was unique. It was a phenomenon. The academic accomplishments and the professional success we see as we look around speaks for itself. Our cricketers have represented our country and have made an immense contribution to win the coveted Saravanamuttu Trophy during those glorious years in the Faculty.
Our unity was our great strength. Sadly, we have lost many friends along the way. Even now as we think of them, their faces, laughter and mannerisms come easily to mind. Those memories of our lives together in the Faculty will remain with us, always. Amidst others, we will continue to associate their memory with the iconic buildings of the Faculty of Medicine, the airy charm of the wards and the busy long corridors of the General Hospital, Colombo. The batch has decided to honour, salute and celebrate the lives of our ‘batch-mates’ who have now passed on. For this remembrance we have chosen when we first met officially at the registration on the 30th of May, 1962. Let the ‘Remembrance Day’ be a batch tradition and a date in our Calendar. It is our wish to publish a write-up, a poem or a piece of music with a list of friends who have gone before us. They are gone but will never be forgotten. We will remember them with dignity and respect, despite the years. Our hearts go out to their families who must live with the loss. We thank them for their contribution to life in the Faculty and for their services to their communities where they lived and worked. May they all find Eternal Peace.
Despite life’s vain tumults, none of us is here forever. Our time will come. This list below is an expanding catalogue and a work in progress. Now we are in the grip of events much of it beyond our control. Meanwhile, we must enjoy life, family and friends. Farewells, Reunions and Get-togethers are invaluable. Do make every attempt to keep in touch. Let this be a reminder to the last of our batch to leave this planet to switch off the lights and shut the door behind!!
''If you cry because the sun has gone out of your life,
your tears will prevent you from seeing the stars.”
― Rabindranath Tagore
- S.R. (Sunil) de Silva
- A.R.K. (Russel) Paul
- Dawne de Silva Paul
- Bernard Randeniya
- Niriella Chandrasiri
- V. Ganeson
- L.G.D.K. (Irwin) Herath
- B.L. Perera
- B. Somasunderam
- N.C.D.M. Gunasekara
- Tudor Wickramarachchi
- K.N. (Kiththa) Wimalaratne
- Anna Ponnambalam Sathiagnanan
- A. Satchitananda
- N. Sivakumar
- T.A. Dayaratne
- Sidath Jayanetti
- N. Balakumar
- Kamali Nimalasuriya de Silva
- K. Sri Kantha – 15.9.13
- P. Lucien Perera – 14.6.14
- Priya (Gunaratna) de Silva – 8.10.14
- Arul (Sivaguru) Balasubramaniam – 15.10.14
- W. Punsiri Fernando – 15.11.14
- W. Rajasooriyar – 6.1.15
- M.P.C. Jaimon – 26.3.15
- S. Vedavanam – 1.7.15
- Farouk Mahmoud – 27.11.16
- Janaka (JG) Wijetunga – 13.03.17
- Manohari Navaratnarajah Shanmuganathan – 22.03.17
- D. B. Mahendra Collure – 31.05.17
- Suren Iyer – 13.10.17
- Sardha Jayatilake Wijeratne
Monday, May 14, 2018
It's that time of the year when we make preparations to flock to the venue (Bentota this year) for the Annual Get-together of the Colombo Medical School Alumni Association (CoMSAA) to be held on 8th and 9th September 2018 (please see flyer below and details of making reservations).