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).
As the dust settled from the tragedies of
WWII,the wind of changesweptacrossthe Indian subcontinent
with the growth of national consciousness.
We grew up through the dying embers of
colonial Ceylon.There began an
interminable conflictbetween British values
and post independent nationalism. Meanwhile the schools in the big cities encouraged
us to maintain British ways. In many affluent homes, English remained the spoken
language. We took on British culture, manners and mannerisms. On the 4th
of February 1948,the administration and
the flag changed overnight. But the cultural change took a lot longer. At school, we were discouraged from speaking in
Sinhala. “Godaya” was a term reviled by all.The word “Swabasha” was used as a derogatory expression.
The British introduced their own social
structure and aristocracy, to help in their administration. This social
hierarchy was added on to our own class and caste system. These hereditary titles and privileges prevailed
all through the British period. After independence the aristocracy declined,
but slowly. With every general election the voice of the people began to be
heard with ever increasing force until the emergence of the age of the common
man. Many welcomed the triumph of meritocracy but they were less enthusiastic to accept the
power of the people.
Up until our country’s independence,
Medical College was the citadel of the privileged class. The medical students
were educated in the top schools and came mostly from the upper echelons of Ceylonese
society. Their bohemian lifestyle and legends had entered the folklore of that
great institution. In 1948 the cultural transformation began and when we joined
the Faculty in 1962 it was at the tail-end of this remarkable era.In our batch we had the rich and the poor and
the many in-between.There were those
from different ethnic and social classes.Although I would like to think elitism didn’t exist in Medical College
of our time, the cliques and exclusive parties of a few would say otherwise.
That was the way society had turned us out . We often rose above those differences. In good times and bad, as a batch we jelled
marvelously well.We remained united
during the tension and turmoil of the rags and suspension. The success of the
Block night and the Final year trip speaks volumes. Our fine multiple Batch
Reunions are a great tribute to our members unity. What age has taught me over
the years is that we are all different. But it is important we are equal.
My generation grew up with this changing
attitudes and beliefs. Sometimes we felt stranded in ‘no mans land’.There are many in our batch who accepted
change with good grace. We are proud of our gifted musicians Zita and Mahen who
sing those melodious old Sinhala songs
from long ago bringing back childhood memories. They have brought an extra dimension to our
Blog. I feel immensely fortunate to have listened to Sinhala music in my
childhood and also watched the early Sinhala films which have turned out to be
classics. HM Rupasinghe, Sunil Santha,
Chitra and Somapala, Rukmani Devi and others made a tremendous contribution to Sinhala
music. I found some of the Hindi films rather
jolly and good all round entertainment. Their music was interesting. Many of
our early Sinhala cinema took the cue from those ever popular Hindi music and films.
Would anyone be brave enough to write a
piece in Sinhala for our Blog?
The Colombo schools hung on to British
values a lot longer.English classical
and popular music remained in their curriculum as didballet and English drama at the expense of
our own. There was a resurgence of the
local dances and drama which gradually gained popularity after independence.Those lost arts took a lot longer to be
revived. We must be thankful to those village schools that maintained Sinhala
and Tamil traditions and preserved the arts for posterity.
In many ways our generation was fortunate
to get the best of both worlds. It seems we were better prepared for life. English is a universal language and our early
exposure to this at home and schoolmade
our professional lives so much easier. I am unaware of the situation in SL now.The wide gap that existed between the schools
of the big cities and villages have largely disappeared. The world is a much
smaller place than when we were growing up. Television and the digital age have brought
knowledge far closer to everyone. I hope we have retained our national identity
and values whilst accepting what is good and wholesome from the rest of the
I have lived in exile for over 40 years and
love the way of life in England. I love
English classical music, drama and ballet. Visiting English country houses and gardens
and watching cricket at Lords have now become a part of my great enjoyment of
life. Yet, I am a Sri Lankan at heart. Amazingly I still can speak Sinhala fluently
to be understood. But I cannot comprehend the modern Sinhala spoken by
Newsreaders on TV and Radio. Reading Sinhala newspapers is much harder and
slower. The drift away from my beloved countryI would put down to the awesome force of destiny.
I wish Sri Lanka will remain a country
where all its people can live in peace. We have come through tough times. We now recognize conflict and fear.I hope we have learnt from the mistakes of
the past. As I have said earlier, the
premise that we are all equal is an important one for our future peace and