Monday, August 24, 2015
A Brief Rendezvous
By Nihal D Amerasekera
We chose the hottest day of the year to meet at the Côte Brasserie, Soho, Wardour Street, London on the 22nd of August 2015. As Mahendra Gonsalkorale, Zita Perera Subasinghe and her husband Joe sat in the restaurant we could feel the warm air waft across the large open window by the pavement. After the usual pleasantries, we started our chat. We accepted gratefully that none of us have changed much since those days. The furrows and marks on our faces are an acknowledgment of the knocks as well as the joys that life has brought us. We reminisced, remembered and recounted those happy times of long ago.
All four of us were born during ravages of World War II and grew up in the aftermath. We were kids in a fledgling democracy as Sri Lanka was finding its feet. We were teenagers in the hedonistic 60’s of sex, drugs and rock and roll and survived it all to step on the treadmill at the GCE only to get off on retirement when we were 65 or thereabouts. It’s been a rollercoaster to say the least.
It took us back to the tall grim building called the Block and the very first time we met in June 1962. The silent human torsos lying on those porcelain slabs and the strong pungent smell of formalin ushered in our careers in medicine. We had all our lives before us. Its been a long journey since. Zita I met last when we gathered in the lobby of the faculty to say goodbye in March 1967. Mahendra and I met at the Royal College of Physicians in London while sitting for the MRCP in 1975. How time has flown. The stress of building a career and raising a family has invariably taken its toll.
Our families took pride of place as we discussed their part in our world. Each one of us outlined our passage through the various stages in our careers up until retirement. We never knew Zita has had a remarkable career as an Ophthalmologist at the Sri Jayawardenepura hospital where she started the Laser service. Her photo adorns the department to remember her contribution to ophthalmology in Sri Lanka. Joe is the man from Raybans, that famous upmarket optometrists back home.
We discussed our hobbies and how we spent our days at leisure. Mahendra and Zita are fine musicians. The many songs that are on the Blog by them show their talent and also their love and commitment to music. I personally have some of them in my iTunes, a reminder of my roots.
The topic of religion and after life or the lack of it featured prominently. Although we had differing religious backgrounds that didn’t seem to hinder a rational discussion trying our best to remain scientific and logical. That is never easy discussing a topic so etherial. I am a great believer in the awesome force of destiny when the unpreventable happens. This aroused much interest and a lively debate. Suddenly, I noted a change in Mahen’s expression, a slight widening of the eyes, and a smile to indicate he has reservations. We have all had our share of misfortune in this long and tortuous journey through life. Despite this it is heartening to note the four of us are still having such a marvelous time as we grow old gracefully.
We mentioned the gradual but inevitable decline since being septuagenarians and the importance to maintain a sense of purpose minus the driving ambition and rivalry. I should have mentioned in the same vein that it is vital to get rid of the baggage we all carry called “regret”.
There is always time to discuss mutual friends on such occasions, and we did. The mention of names always brings back loads of memories of those younger days and more recent meetings. We remembered most fondly those who have since departed this world and their part in our lives. These are reminders of our own mortality and the primal fear of exit from this world. It is a world which we have come to love and also despise.
Our Blog has been our unifying force thanks to Lucky Abey and we discussed ways to improve and also expand so that it will remain viable for longer. I am sure these will require further thought before they see the light of day.
This was a memorable meeting which we all enjoyed immensely. The food was exquisite, service was brilliant and the ambience most appropriate. We must meet again. Joe as treasurer is irreplaceable. I sincerely hope we see each other before long as time is fast catching up. We thank Zita’s daughter - Nisha for her recommendation of the Venue in London which served us so well.
Good and reliable friends are worth their weight in gold. They are the greatest source of pleasure and support in later years with whom you can laugh at the travails of youth.
Take care - until we meet again.