Search This Blog

Friday, November 13, 2015

A.R.K. (Russel) Paul - An Appreciation

By Sanath P. Lamabadusuriya

Russel was the eldest in a family of four boys and two or three girls Their father was Professor R.H. Paul who was the Professor of Electrical Engineering in the University of Peradeniya and he became the Dean later. Russel entered Royal College (RC) in 1952 and was senior to me by two years, but later I caught him up and we entered the University together. His younger brother Hillary, was a good athlete at RC and he excelled in the long jump and triple jump. I think he captained the athletics team and he was one year senior to me, but I caught him up later. Unfortunately Hillary died of a malignancy prematurely. Keith was one or two years junior to me and was an excellent ruggerite and he captained the RC rugby team. Beverly the youngest of the boys, played cricket for RC

Russel excelled in the Freshers Athletics Meet when he entered the University of Colombo in 1961, by winning four events. He was an excellent student and he came second in the order of merit at the Final MBBS examination in March 1967 ( I topped the batch). I really came to know him during the internship at GHC, where we  worked together as Interns in the Professorial Medical Unit with Prof. K Rajasuriya, Dr, Oliver Peiris and Dr. David Chanmugam. We shared a room in the Main Quarters for one whole year. During our free time we played poker together with others such as Neil Fonseka, "Sodium" Karunaratna, Marius Cooray, C. Balakrishnan (who opened batting for the Ceylon Cricket Team), Michael Satchithanandan, Ajith de Silva, Sathanandan et al. He continued his internship with Dr, L.D.C. Austin at the GHC.

Later both of us went to Chest Hospital Welisara for the post-internship appointments. On 1st April 1969 I joined the Faculty of Medicine, Colombo as a Lecturer in Paediatrics. Soon after, Russel returned to GHC as a Registrar in the Professorial Medical Unit with Prof. K. Rajasuriya. In 1970 both of us spent many hours in the nights studying for the MD examination. In December 1970 we sat for the MD examination. Russel passed and I failed (the exam was only in adult medicine and there was no paediatric component). In 1971 both of us sat for the MRCP Part 1 examInation which was conducted for the first time in Sri Lanka. Both of us passed. The next morning, I managed to recollect the whole paper consisting of 60 True/False type MCQ's , five responses in each (total of 300 questions).  As there was no question bank at that time, this document turned out to be extremely valuable for future candidates. The billiards marker in the students Common Room in the Colombo Medical Faculty, cyclostyled this document, sold it and made a fortune!

Russel was romantically involved with one of our batch mates, Dawne de Silva whom he later married. In 1971, Russsel and Dawne decided to emigrate to the US. When I asked him why he was doing so, he told me that his father was a University Academic all his life and after retirement, was living in a rented flat at Duplication Road (R. A. de Mel Mawatha). Therefore, he did not want to end up like his father.  Dawne was quite affluent but Russel did not want to live off her. That was typical of Russel.

They had two children - a daughter and a son.. Unfortunately, the daughter was brain-damaged at birth and became mentally handicapped and hyperactive. Whenever they came on holiday to Sri Lanka, we used to meet up and socialise. As one of his children was an asthmatic, he used to bring all the necessary drugs, scalp vein needles and syringes which he used to leave behind for my use at Karapitiya.

In the  1970's or early 1980's one of Russel's sisters was abducted near the Eye Hospital Junction and was raped. A notorious criminal Gonawela Sunil, was convicted for the crime and sent to prison . Later, he was released on a presidential pardon given by J.R.Jayewardene. After he was released, he was gunned down by the JVP.
Russel became a specialist in Gastroenterological Oncology and settled down in Philadelphia later. I visited the US with my family in 1988 and was planning to visit Russel and his family. But I had to change my plans and we did not travel to Philadelphia. I last spoke to Russel from Indra Anandasabapathy's home in Staten Island, New York. Russel told me about the problems he was going through. Dawne had developed Ankylosing Spondylitis and was bed ridden latterly. Their daughter was a teenager by then, but was fed and washed by Russel as she was handicapped. Russel had avoided socialising with friends gradually because it was difficult for him  to manage his daughter, So, gradually Russel became isolated.

In 1990 or 1991, when I was working at the Ruhuna Medical Faculty, I was shocked to read about the murder/suicide of Russel's family in the front page of the "Daily News". Russel had apparently injected some drug IV to his family members and committed suicide by injecting himself. I am sure that it was a joint decision taken by Russel together with Dawne.The coroner did not disclose details of the drug used as others may have followed.
Knowing Russel, he would have calculated the individual doses to a decimal point, taking the body weights into account. I think it came to a breaking point when he could not manage his family by himself. I am sure  this tragic event would not have happened if Russel and his family lived in Sri Lanka because of the extended family support found here.

Thus ended the life of a wonderful human being and a close friend.

17 comments:

  1. A sad ending of a wonderful person. We cannot ever really ensure a happy future for ourselves, however good , however wealthy, however clever we are --- but we can try! I am constantly reminded of the impermanent and unsatisfactory nature of life when we ponder on the totality of life but we mustn't forget that within that fabric, there are many things which bring us happiness, albeit transient, and quite often, they are to do with service to humanity and simple things in life rather than power or wealth or material gain. In conclusion, Russel was a good man, driven to desperation to a degree that he felt the only way out for him and his family was to quit this world. Always judge (if you must that is) a person by context and circumstances as we have no idea how we may behave in similar situations. Wow! I sound too serious don't I!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are right Mahen. This like many other events in our lives helps us to concentrate our minds on what is really important in this long and tortuous journey through life. We take so many things for granted.
      Enjoy life while you can for who knows what tomorrow may bring.
      ...
      It is the winter blues raising its ugly head.
      ND

      Delete
  2. I feel great sadness for that tragic event and the suffering of those loved ones left behind. Paul and Dawn were such a lovely and loving couple all through the days in the faculty. Yet again it is an inexplicable event due to the awesome force of destiny. May Paul, Dawn and the children Rest in Peace.
    ND

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah! your favourite theme ND - the awesome force of destiny! Are you deterministic? Believe in an unseen "organiser and trail maker" for us all? Is destiny "pre-destined" and therefore not negotiable? Is the concept of Karma misunderstood as destiny or is it? These questions will keep you going for yonks! (Only of course it is the awesome force of destiny! Just in jest!

      Delete
  3. Karma is a word better understood. Perhaps I should use it more often. Destiny is rather wooly and means many things to many people.
    ND

    ReplyDelete
  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I met Russel for the for the first time when we were in the !st. MB Course at Uni. He was in a large Zoology batch (around 120) and I was in a miniscule group but 'Elite' group numbering in the mid teens or so, along with the likes of Zita (Perera) Subasinjghe, Puan (Ramalingam) Sivanadan Luckey Abey, Cyril Ernest, the late Kunasingham, and I am sorry if I missed out any that came along to Colombo, while the others were sent to the "other place"!!
    I got on well the others in all other groups and more so with Russell. In fact some of us were invited to Gampaha by Waidyaratne (Zoology group) & Russell (RP) picked me up from my home in Wattala in his Lambretta scooter. We had a great time and he RP wanted to visit the famous Catholic Church, he being a Catholic himself. Ae the church we both went in and both lit candles. He knelt down at pew and prayed while I sat silently at a pew behind him prayed respectfully in- my own inimitable manner being a lapsed Muslim!! The irony of this was that the Church was the Church for the Saint St JUDE-- the Saint for the DESPERATES!!! I wonder if 'the forces of destiny' was at play' / had any bearing,. considering the events of later years that befell him and his family????
    What 'forces of destiny' awaiting us all --- I know not???
    On the way back he deposited me safely at my home.
    In the following years he used to visit my place on many an occasions accompanied by few other batch mates to enjoy the cooking of my Mum, after they visited the Toddy Taverns in Wattala!!!.
    He used to visit my Mum whenever she was in hospital for her numerous health issues and my Mum adored him.
    In our Block days he did help me a great deal to get over the 'first hurdle' -- he himself excelling!! in the Block Exams and at Hurdles at the Fresher's Meet!!!.
    These are some of my memories of Russell Paul
    I wonder what course of action we would have taken if we had faced the same issues that he had to face while in US??? v-- I know not.
    I shall never forget those halcyon days that we enjoyed together and only pray in my own inimitable way for Russell,, Dawney and his family to REST IN PEACE in any of the "GLORIOUS PLACES", away form the vagaries of this present earthy life!!!
    MAY THEY ALL REST IN PEACE IN ELYSIUM
    Razque

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Razaque for that lovely recollection of our quiet and lovely departed colleague. I couldn't help but notice your recollection of his Lambretta scooter. Just a post on the large collection of Lambrettas, Vespas, Honda 50s and Motor Guzzis would be an interesting read! Thank you my s. friend!

      Delete
    2. Thanks Mahendra.
      Yes most of our mates had their own mode of transport.
      At the same token many of us had to depend on public transport.
      As for me it was the train and trolley-bus & "kakul deka"!!
      Razaque

      Delete
  6. Just to complement Razaque's comment, there were 15 of us in the Chemistry 1st MB batch. They were: Razaque Ahamat, Cyril Ernest, Puwan Ramalingam Sivanathan, Zita Perera Subasinghe, Ranjith Kariyawasam, the late Kunasingham (who ended up in Colombo) and Nilakshi Pandita Gunawardene (married Dr. Nandi Wijesinghe who was in the Colombo Faculty), Srikanthi Perera Senaratne (married the late racing driver Omar Senaratne), Sivasubramaniam, the late Pushparajalingam, PG Nandadeva (General Surgeon), the late Raja Wijenayake (Paediatrician), Ms Thambipillai (I forget her first name. Don'y know whom she married), MN Wimalasuriya (he qualified as a Veterinary Surgeon) and myself.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Luckey.
      On recollection Thambipillai's first name is 'Ambi' -- Ambikapathy.
      We did have a great time on our !st MB Course -- didn't we???
      Razaque

      Delete
  7. That's right. She is Ambikapathy. Thanks Raz.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Luckey,
      I think WE have missed out on another college of our Chemistry 1st MB batch ---- Neville Fernando!!!
      Sorry Neville
      Raz.

      Delete
  8. I am trying to get hold of MN Wimalasuriya who was senior to me at Wesley College. Leelananda Weerasinghe and MNW went to Veterinary Sc. LW is in California enjoying the sun and sadly wasn't in the best of health . Any idea of MNW's whereabouts??
    ND

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me too , Nihal. We know he did vet. science. Did he move to practice in Gampaha or Gampola?
      Let me know if you have any leads.

      Indra A

      Delete
  9. Sorry about the omission of Neville Fernando. He too went to Peradeniya and I have lost track of him completely.

    I think I will take up the challenge thrown out by Speedy, about writing (or rather listing) the "Two - Wheelers" of the batch.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Sanath P. LamabadusuriyaNovember 23, 2015 at 12:48 AM

    I had a Vespa 125cc scooter, (4 Shree 955) which I purchased for Rs. 2050.00 in 1962 and sold for Rs. 10,000.00 in 1969 or 1970. I used to spend Rs. 5.00 per week for petrol!
    Sanath

    ReplyDelete