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Monday, August 29, 2011

A. Satchithananda – A Tribute by Dr. Nihal D. Amerasekera

I was deeply saddened to hear of the demise of A. Satchithananda, yet another mate from our batch of 1962 (Colombo Medical Faculty). He was a brilliant product of Royal College, Colombo and entered the Colombo Medical Faculty via the 6- months course in Zoology. He was immediately recognised by his peers and the teaching staff as a brilliant student.  He progressed through the immensely difficult medical course with consummate ease and with great distinction.
At the Medical College, despite his academic ability, Satchi maintained a low profile. He was much liked by everyone and was a regular at the men’s common room playing chess,  table tennis, carrom  and bridge. It was at this venue that we became friends. His favourite indoor game was chess. But he was a fine Table Tennis  player as well. I remember him as a person who always spoke sense, not getting involved in the constant small talk that was ever present in the common room. Satchi and his BSA Bantam motor bike were inseparable.
After obtaining his MBBS, Satchi completed his internship at the General Hospital, Colombo and the Lady Ridgeway Hospital  in Borella. He had an irresistible desire to emigrate to the USA and encouraged many of us to do the same. After a residency program in the Coney Island Hospital and Kings County Hospital Center, USA, he qualified as a Paediatrician.  His successful career was rudely interrupted by renal problems which bedeviled him all his life. During his long illness, he was supported by his wife and family who were there with him right to the end.
I revived my friendship with him due to our common interest in writing, classical music and Apple computers. He had a highly creative mind and wrote prose and poetry which were published in the popular newspapers, magazines, journals and on the Internet.  Satchi read nearly all the time and was an incredible source of knowledge. He was, I think, a sort of latter-day Google with the benefit of human properties.  He was a film buff and saw all the good films on DVD and became a reliable reviewer and film critic. We exchanged ideas and kept in touch with emails. Often, we discussed politics. He never seemed to mind the frankness of our discussions and nothing much shocked him. We both realised how delicately balanced a democratic society is.
Satchie was an Anglophile as his father was a product of Cambridge University. He never failed to listen to the Kings College Choir sing the Nine Lessons and Carols every Christmas day when it was on the BBC World Service Radio. Satchie spoke most warmly of his father who had a tremendous impact on his early life at home.
Despite his troubles, his kindness to others remained undiminished.  For many years, he made time to help veterans in his neighbourhood with their Tax Returns. He continued this until his own health deteriorated.
When Satchi arrived in London in the year 2000 to visit his relatives, we met up in Cockfosters, North London with another of our batchmates LPJM Wickramasinghe. There we enjoyed a grand Indian meal when we discussed our own lives and those of our close mutual friends. We exchanged gifts and he gave me a Gorecki CD which is a melancholy piece depicting the suffering of the Jews in WW2. It is also an ample reminder of  his own suffering and of his family during the troubles in Sri Lanka.  Satchi had great empathy for the downtrodden.
He had more than his fair share of sadness and tragedy in his life, but he always managed to smile and joke with friends. Understandably, the events of his past and his own illness had a devastating effect on his life and his personality. Despite this, he maintained his dignity and composure remaining a loyal friend to many.
As I retired from work and embarked on touring the world, I was not able to keep up with Michael Satchie, as he was then known. I regret this greatly, but have wonderful memories of the years when we were close friends. His younger brother Dr. Anantham Harin pre –deceased him.
On behalf of the Medical College batch of 1962 and his numerous friends, I send my condolences to his family. Now his troubles are over.
I seek the comfort of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam    
Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend,
 Before we too into the Dust Descend;
 Dust into Dust, and under Dust, to lie,
 Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer and—sans End!

I wish him Eternal Peace

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