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Friday, March 25, 2011

Youthful Exuberance

                  Law-Medical '63 (Photo courtesy Sunday Times of Ceylon of March 3, 1963)

Our batch was somewhat unique in that we were subjected to a second rag (in addition to the traditional “Freshers’ Rag” soon after registration) by our seniors, when we were well into our second year in medical school. As if that punishment was not enough, almost all the males in the batch were suspended for two weeks and fined Rupees ten by the university’s Board of Residence and Discipline. When the Law and Medical Colleges met in their annual cricket encounter in 1963, we (who were Block Juniors) paraded the streets of Colombo in an open truck maintaining a tradition established by our seniors. We were appropriately dressed for the occasion in black shirts complete with the skull and cross bones emblem. However, things got a bit out of hand when the marauding medicos invaded the pitch and disrupted play in the Royal-Trinity inter-school cricket match that was being played at Reid Avenue. The icing on the cake was the unannounced “visit” to Castle Street Girls School at Borella (present Devi Balika Vidyalaya) to provide unsolicited “entertainment” to the giggling schoolgirls. Not withstanding the flood of complaints that followed, it was obvious that the young girls enjoyed the proceedings as much as the boys did.

The grand finale was at the foot of the Lighthouse at Chaitya Road near Galle Face at the conclusion of the match on the second day. The few sober colleagues who were eye witnesses, later described the scene when black shirted revelers who had taken one too many, were virtually thrown into the back of a truck like sacks of potatoes close to midnight. I remember waking up groggily with a splitting headache the next day. Looking around, I realised that I was in bed with three others (who were still asleep) dressed in soiled black shirts. Other beds in the room were similarly over-occupied. As my mind cleared, I was able to put two and two together. The many casualties from the previous night had been unceremoniously transported to a well-known men’s medical hostel in Colombo by colleagues who managed to stay relatively sober that night.

                         Block Concert '63 (Lareef Idroos and Lucky Abey in the foreground)

Contrary to popular belief, medical students at least of our generation were not poring over books all the time. Besides the annual Law-Medical cricket encounter and the 2nd MB and final-year trips, the annual Block Concert and Dance was one of the most looked forward to fun events in a medical student’s diary. The concert preceded the dance, and traditionally, it was the freshers who not only played the lead in organising the event, but in acting on the stage as well.

One of the items put up by our batch in 1962 was an African tribal dance with an all-male cast. “Female” dancers (that included me) were scantily dressed in skirts made of straw and a “thana patiya” tied around the upper torso with padding underneath in the right places. Both the scantily dressed “females” and their male partners were liberally daubed with a mixture of oil and powdered charcoal to make them look like dark-skinned Africans. The women dancers also had human bones to hold their hair in place much like a “Konda Koora” that women use. They wore necklaces in which the “beads” were actually human teeth and vertebrae. I recollect (vaguely) how the high-spirited actors jumped down from the stage at the conclusion of their act and walked right through the aisle in the New Arts Theatre at Thurstan Road. It was like cutting through butter with a hot knife when well-dressed guests in the audience including Faculty Staff, scrambled to get out of the way to avoid getting the greasy black stuff on their own clothing.

                                                   Ready for the Final Year Trip 1966

This was the last fun event before we settled down to concentrate on the final examinations held in March 1967. At least to the majority of us, it was also the last time before the exams that we were able to treat ourselves with unlimited doses of alcohol. Over four fun-filled days, we drank, ate, sang and danced to our hearts content. Our hosts were senior doctors stationed in Kegalle, Ratnapura, Kurunegala and Badulla.
On our return to Colombo, we assembled near the clock tower at Kynsey Road from where we dispersed singing my own substituted (unprintable) lyrics of the song "Carnival is Over" made popular by "The Seekers". Our own version of "Carnival is Over" was the theme song of that memorable trip.


  1. The Final year trip brings many memories but none more vivid to me than that of 3 of our colleagues at Matale. Lubber was parading with just a tie around his waist and the main portion providing a discrete cover for his manly equipment stating that he was Argyll Robertson's pupil, Sunil Abey was crying inconsolably as he does when experiencing high ethanol levels and Victor Hector Proctor was on his knees counting ants emerging from an anthill outside Matale Doctors's quarters after being forcibly fed with arrack (he had a choice though- drink or suffocate!).

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