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).
were happy peaceful days in my youth when life was full and in harmony with
nature. During the long University vacationI decided to travel home armed with some reading material. I can still
recall the large black canopy of the Fort Railway Station and the smell of
steam and burning coal. There was soot everywhere. The trains hissed and puffed
and screeched incessantly. The 3 hour journey was uneventful but for a
talkative young Englishman seated in front who began a long conversation. He
indulged lavishly in the Vadeys and pineapples sold by the vendors at the
Railway Stations along the way. The sight of the stilt-fishermen, with their
unique style of fishing from a perch on a sturdy pole 20-50 meters out to sea
remain in my memory still.
1962 my father was working for the Local Government in Weligama. My parents
then lived on the outskirts of the town some distance away from the sea on the
Akuressa Road. On either side were paddy fields, banana plantations and palm
trees. Across in the distance was the backdrop of purple mountains. Ours was a
new house built on a hillside surrounded by tall jak, breadfruit and mango
trees. It was an idyllic setting with a gravel path leading up to the house. At
the edge of the propertywas a stream
full of fish. At night the frogs made an awful racket. In the morning thedawn chorus was deafening. During the day I walked in the garden sat
beneath the trees. Sometimes I did some fishing downstream and enjoyed seeing
the village damsels frolicking and bathing in the muddy pool.
the warm afternoons I went out for a walk across the fields or through the
forest. Every meal was a feast of mouth watering sea food with a pot of local
curd and honey. The short walk to town was full of greetings from the friendly
locals. A retired Apothecary lived in a
large mansion nearby. He was a quiet kind man with a few professional anecdotes
which he related over and over again. In the evenings we went to the old Rest
House by the sea. It was beautifully located at the edge of the Weligama bay . The
tall cylindrical columns of its long verandahs gave it a colonial feel. On many
occasions I had sat on the rocks watching the waves roll in. It was very pretty
at sunset to see the boats go out to sea and the shimmering lights appear
across the bay in the far distance. Heaven and earth seem very near to each
the beach is an extraordinary villa occupying a 2 acre island in Weligama Bay. It
was built in the 1920s by the traveller and gardener Count de Mauny. The island
was a famous destination for many
notables from different nations, including the novelist Paul Bowles. Its
spectacular tropical gardens, andoctagonal-shaped house is breathtakingly beautiful. Its early colonial
furnishings, large circular verandahs
make you step back into the 1930’s and is a travellers dream. Music from Noel
Cowards “a Room with a view” wafts in the background giving it an “olde world”
feel. The Count finally chose to live his eternal dream of peace and tranquillity
close to nature ending his days in this paradise island. There was a busy main
street of small shops and a fish market. The Railway Station was small and had
a quaint grey picket fence. I still remember its Seth Thomas pendulum clock in
the Station Masters Office. There was just the one doctor working in Private
Practice – Dr Nugara a kindly gentleman of immense grace and charm. He later
left to settle in Australia. Sometimes we visited relatives in Kitulampitiya
Galle and occasionally went to Matara to see the sights. After my vacation I said
goodbye to my idyllic home to return to Colombo and a busy schedule of hard work.
left Sri Lanka in 1974 to ‘make my fortune’ abroad. More exams and hard work
filled my days and nights. Carving up a career took its time and toll. Years
whizzed past and it wasn’t until 20 years later I returned to Weligama the town
that has haunted me since those days of my youth.
made the journey by car to save time. The roads were no wider than before but
the number of vehicles had increased several fold. The result was mayhem with
noise and pollution. Despite the fast moving traffic people, cattle and dogs
cross the road in gay abandon. Weligama was unrecognisable. The popular
landmarks had disappeared andI found
our former home with difficulty. The many tall trees that surrounded the house
had gone perhaps ending up as furniture in a plush Colombo Hotel. The lovely
gravel path to the house had become a muddy track left behind by lorriesand bull dozers. The gushing waters of the stream was now a trickle
without any life being a casualty of intensive farming with pesticides. Worse
was yet to come. An old man seated on the steps of the house looked bemused but
greeted us warmly. The property has been brought by developers and the house
was allowed to decay. The door creaked as it opened. My heart sank to see the
long strands of cobwebs stretch from wall to wall. Wooden windows had perished
and fallen away and the house was a haven for cockroaches and mice. In places
the roof had caved in. The plaster had come off the rain soaked walls. Doom and
desolation filled the air. As I moved from room to room I felt uneasy and
claustrophobic remembering the life and the laughter and the happy times we
have spent there. I spoke little and left the house heart broken to see my home
in ruin and my memories shattered. Many of the neighbours had died and their
children moved away. The main street was packed with people and full of life.
There were many tourists bartering and moving in and out of the numerous shops.
The astrologers and palmists made a quick trade. The buzz of the place absorbed my attention
for awhile. Rest of the town looked prosperous too. Many of the houses had
Televisions Radios and VCR’s. They were well maintained with lovely gardens and
cars in the porch. The people certainlylooked more affluent and healthy. With industrialisation we are losing
touch with mother earth and the rich harvest it brings. The tourists bring us
the valuable dollars and litter the countryside with the products of their own
artificial lives. In the evening I sat on a rock by the Rest House watching the
sea. There have been new additions to the Rest House which was not in keeping
with its colonial past. Snorkelling and speed boating had stopped for the day.
I watched the waves roll in as I had done all those years ago wrapped in my own
thoughts. There were Coca Cola cans and polythene bags rolling in the breeze on the baked
golden sand. I left Weligama with mixed feelings. Sad that my past has been
desecrated but happy to see prosperity has reached that beautiful town of my
dreams. After all I cannot allow the dreams of my youth get in the way of
writing these notes I have tried to give my moods and thoughts as it occurred.
To me the last 50 years have been one rich gift amidst some misfortune. It is politics
and destiny that would decide what the next 50 years would bring for Weligama.
yesterdays of my youth lie buried in this beautiful country of my birth.
I wish to dedicate these memories to
my maternal grandfather Dr DB Weerasekera who accompanied me in the journeys to
this idyll. He paid for my rail ticket, discouraged me from eating the vadeys
and pineapples from vendors due to fear of bacteria and held my hand when I
crossed the road although I was a grown up man. I wish I was there to hold his
hand in his final hour. (Author's note: This article appeared in The Island newspaper nearly 2 decades ago).