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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

"Two Wheelers" of the Batch

By Lakshman Abeyagunawardene

When I read Speedy's comment under a different topic/post, I was inclined to write a separate piece on the "Two Wheelers" of the batch, may be because I was one of them.

I used a blue and white Honda 50 cc (registration Number 4 Sri 3856). During that period, I had only one accident which was not of a serious nature. On the day the Second MB exam results were announced, quite a few of the males in the batch assembled at the Mayfair restaurant at Bambalapitiya junction for a small celebration. I remember arriving there rather early and when we stopped at the traffic lights at Bambalapitiya Junction, a van belonging to EAP Edirisinghe's company knocked my bike from behind. I had my friend Sunna (SR De Silva) on my pillion and although nothing happened to me, Sunna was thrown over my head and landed in front. Miraculously, Sunna was not hurt except for some bruises and I was relieved to see him getting on to his feet soon after the accident. After using the Honda 50 for 5 years, I sold it to the late Kunasingham (Kunam) who unfortunately fell back and remained in med school (probably for one more year) after we graduated. I remember very well the day I closed the deal. Kunam was at Kittyakara Hostel on Campbell Place. When I went there by prior appointment, his father had come all the way from Jaffna (or wherever) with the cash for the transaction! The agreed amount was Rs 1450, not much by today's standards, but certainly a fair amount in 1967.

A few others owned Honda 50s as we used to call them. JC Fernando and Vishweshwara too had blue and white models like mine. Easwaran Kanapathipillai rode a red and white model and so did my bosom pal the late SR de Silva (Sunna) who came to own one a little later.

There were many who owned the more powerful Vespa and Lambretta scooters. Those who owned the newer Vespa models (the handle in particular was different) were: Sanath Lamabadusuriya (I think it had registration number 4 Sri 955), Mahendra Collure and the late LGDK Herath. Douglas Mulgirigama owned an older model Vespa. Rajan (Patas) Ratnesar was the other who used an older model of Vespa. 

Now for some digression as usual. I later found out that the bike used by Douglas Mulgirigama had been owned by my next door neighbour at Manning Town the late Dr. Bala Karalapillai when he was a medical student. In his university days, Bala was a member of the champion tennis team led by Rupert Ferdinands. Bala had graduated from the Colombo Medical Faculty in 1959 and qualified as an ENT Surgeon. After emigrating to Australia, he had married the famous Mathematics Professor C.J. Eliezer's daughter. Prof. Eliezer did some special work and became well known when a total solar eclipse occurred on June 30, 1954 which was clearly visible in Ceylon. Bala had passed away at an early age in Australia.

Getting back to our main topic, HN Wickramasinghe and Jimmy Wickramasinghe used Lambrettas. 
VA (Ananda) Hettiarachchi rode a powerful BSA motor cycle (or was it a Triumph?) during our Block days before he graduated to own an Opel Kapitan car later (registration number 4 Sri 210). Among the others who owned BSA motor cycles were Bertram Nanayakkara and A. Sachithananda.
Only a few us would remember Tilak Dayaratne riding an ?NSU motor bike (I am not too sure whether it was a Ducati). Then there were the riders of more fashionable newer motor cycles like the gleaming red Motor Guzzis owned by Nalin Nanayakkara and Ranjith Kariyawasam. Even with fading memories most of us would remember that KDPR Perera (Ranjith Dambawinne) too used a Motor Guzzi before he came to own the white Volkswagen Beetle. 
  
Chaos at Reid Avenue
Four of the bikes - JC's Honda 50, Bertie Nana's BSA, HN's Lambretta and Rajan's (Patas) Vespa would go down in history because of a photograph that appeared in the Sunday Times newspaper soon after that infamous Law - Medical match of March 1963 (pictured here).

As two wheelers, we were constantly exposed to the elements. Come sun or rain, it was better than wasting time standing in bus queues. We always carried a rain coat, but didn't have to wear cumbersome helmets. None of us who used this mode of transport met with any serious accidents and I survived to tell this tale!

19 comments:

  1. I think ( the late) Russell Paul's Lambretta on which I have been a pillion rider on numerous occasions, from our 1st MB days and od course Revo's 'Iron Horse', is worth a mention !!!
    Raz.

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  2. I knew I would have missed something. Of course, Revo had a motor bike. Can't quite remember Russel Paul's Lambretta. Thanks Raz.

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  3. I knew I would have missed something. Of course, Revo had a motor bike. Can't quite remember Russel Paul's Lambretta. Thanks Raz.

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  4. I have been on Russell's Lambretta, a pillion rider' on many occasions including a long trip to Gampaha while in the !st MB Course .......in those happier & carefree days!!!
    I am now becoming very difficult, pedantic and the Devil's Advocate....... regarding those who did have" Two Wheelers"..... albeit the mechanical variety(bicycles!!!) and the - not being a misogynist .... the ladies --- our very own Pram??? Only just being inclusive!!!
    Sorry Luckey... just pulling your leg & being difficult!!!!
    Raz

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  5. I have been a 'free' rider on many of those scooters and bikes. On those escapades I was smothered by dust and choked by the fumes and grime of the red Leyland buses. The brown coating lining my alveoli are a tribute to those halcyon days. My recollection is that KLMT De Silva had a BSA Bantam just like Revo, Satchie and Bertie Nana. Those had apple green petrol tanks. Maneuverability was never their forte but reliability was.
    At this time we must pay tribute to those riders (medocoes) who lost their lives in accidents and those who were seriously injured on the manic streets of Colombo.
    ND

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  6. You may also recall that Vespa riders developed a scoliosis as they had to lean to one side to keep it in balance. The Lambretta posed no such problems as the engine was balanced more or less centrally. The Honda 50 people developed a "coconut tree climbers posture" on the other hand.

    I was a regular on Patas's scooter as he used to give me a lift as we lived close to each other. We used to study together in the small room at the back of our garage, others joining in regularly were Lubber and Vish. We studied 30% of the time and discussed more important things the rest of the time! Those were the days! what for telling aney!

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  7. I have to thank Razaque and ND for complementing what I wrote. Of course, now I remember. KLMT had a BSA Bantam. I have included only the motorised two-wheelers. There were many who rode what we call push bikes, including some women.

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    1. All what I have learnt in medical college has evaporated leaving behind the important info about who had BSA Bantams. The brain knows what it should remember.

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  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  9. This poem I wrote some time ago may mean something to us?

    A NEED FOR THE PAST

    Stuff a can and hide it away
    Things to forget
    Things to hide
    Still a need to hang on anyway

    Tucked away , unseen
    but accessible
    A can can be opened
    secrets revealed, come clean

    They may escape in a frenzy
    Or just be viewed by the curious
    Who provides the can opener?
    Who opens the can I fancy

    Even dark secrets in hiding
    Provide a need
    Past is part of the present
    No escape for the living

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  10. Motor Bikes have been around since 1860 but the scooters arrived on the scene after WWII circa 1946. These inventions revolutionised personal travel. In our youth the 2 wheelers were ridden without helmets. Sometimes after drinks. But in those days traffic was less and very predictable, the pace was much slower and the journeys were short. The scooter stoop, Ducati bamboo spine, Honda bow-legs and erythema ab igne of the Bantam boys (from the hot exhaust) were all part of the scene. Where have all those years gone??
    ND

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  11. Tilak Dayaratne occasionally gave me a lift to Nugegoda. He loved the excitement of speed and weaved through the Colombo traffic like a knife through butter. It is my impression that he owned a Ducati. Tilak was a charming person and I recall his kind and generous ways. Although I never met him after 1967 Manik De Silva (Sunna's bro) kept me informed about him. I understand Tilak married late and had a family. I wish I managed to track him down on my visits to SL. May he find eternal peace.
    ND

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  12. Tilak's is a long story. He is dead and gone, but I will try to put together some sketchy facts about him.

    He was very talented. Not many, other than some of his Royal College classmates knew that he was a good artist. He was a bright student and gained entry to med school having gone through the six months course. He was in the small Physics batch.

    Being a fellow Nugegoda resident during our medical student days, I knew that ND (the eternal pillion rider) not infrequently, hitched a ride on Tilak's pillion.

    Tilak was somewhat of a loner. Although I tried to get close to him, it was not easy. I collected this information, not through him, but mainly from other sources.

    Tilak's father was DG Dayaratne of the old elite CCS. He was best known as the Deputy Director General of Education. Tilak's parents divorced when he was quite young. His mother married Douglas Jayawickrama who was a well known lawyer in Matara. In fact, DJ had his residence at Brown's Hill when we too lived there from 1970 to 1974. If I am not mistaken, Tilak's father too remarried and that's when Tilak's problems started.

    Apparently, Tilak and the step mother never got along well. He had some step brothers. I knew one of them (who I think was at Ananda) even better than I knew Tilak. That boy himself was a medical student who was a few years junior to us, but dropped out early to accept a good job in a private firm.

    Tilak was not happy as a medical student. No wonder then that he flunked exams and fell behind us. After he finally graduated, Tilak served as a volunteer in the Sri Lanka Army Medical Corp and was almost always mobilised. I once ran into him at the Mayfair near the Bambalapitiya Junction. I was with a small group but he was having egg roti and chicken palandy seated all alone at a table. He was shabbily dressed and had a few minor injuries. He had come there after an accident on his mobike. When I tried to engage him in a conversation, he was muttering (almost to himself) in Sinhala "Mata thiyena prashna danne mama vitharai" (only I know what my problems are).

    For a short time, Tilak had a small private practice at the Borella end of Ward Place. I used to drop in there when I was at the HEB and always got my BP checked. He was a member of the IMPA and I used to meet him at the IMPA CME programs and dinners frequently. He was always in the company of his uncle surgeon Dr. CP de Silva whom I knew well when he was Consultant Surgeon at Matara. CP had two brothers who too were doctors. One was Consultant Paediatrician Dr. Stanley de Silva (Srian's father and Kamali Nimalasuriya's FIL). The other - Guy de Silva was a GP in Moratuwa.

    I lost touch with Tilak again when I myself left the country in 1997. Some years later, I read Tilak's obituary notice in the Ceylon Daily News.

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  13. Lucky
    Thank you for shedding some light into the enigmatic and tangled life of Tilak Dayaratne. He was often deep in thought but had a sense of humour. I recall his generosity and kindness. I too heard about his artistic talents. He never joined in the fun and the frolics that were endemic in the Faculty. Tilak chose to live that way. I am pleased we were together in medical school and that I got to know him even for a brief period.
    ND

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  14. I remember Tilak not that well. He was in our medical pre-clinical group with Dr. K S de Silva |(Kira). KS accorded us a dinner & drinks at the end of appointment when Tilak came out of his inhibitions and sang that song " "Little Dutch Girl" and Mrs Ks was very impressed as she was Dutch Years later when I was on Inspection of Masterton Hospital Blood Service in NZ, I bumped into KS as he was the Physician there. He invited us to visit him. We stayed a week-end with him along with my son who was doing his Elective at Whakatane (Maori pronunciation is 'FUCK_A_TANE !!) and Mrs KS inquired after Tilak remembering his rendition. I could not shed much light on his where-a-bouts then!!........ So, at least he is not forgotten!!.

    Razaque

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  15. Raz
    Great little anecdote to remember Kira as well as Tilak. The latter had that amazing ability to joke with a poker face. Kira was a fine teacher with an easy going attitude to life. I too did the appointment with KS De Silva but with LNDA and Rohini A , Anandappa(Marie and Eugene) Sura and Sunil and Anton Ambrose
    ND

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  16. I remember Tilak very well as a quiet person who did not socialise much. I knew his brother Deepal better as he was class mate of mine when I was at St Thomas's prep Kollupitiya (before I saw the light and moved to Royal!). Deepal was also a very talented artist and had a fascination with drawing cars. I remember Deepal also for his great mimicry of the short wave cricket commentary, complete with whistling background sounds and undulating volume typical of SW radio. Sadly, I lost all contact with him.

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  17. I knew Tilak quite well. During our student days, once he invited Chanaka Wijesekera and myself to a birthday party at his mother's house down Horton Place.Tilak's mother was Professor G.H Cooray's sister. Deepal who was married to one of "Sargo" Jayawickrema's(All Ceylon cricket captain) daughters, predeceased Tilak.
    Sanath

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  18. Re Razaque's comment above mentioning Dr. KS de Silva, apparently Dr KS is a friend of Rohini Ana's husband Ana. See below.

    "Dr. Kirthi de Silva (wasn't he called KS de Silva and Kira) figured prominently in some recent posts on the blog. I think he was RP, GHC at the time he did our pre-clinical class. If you are interested, look up recent old posts. On second thoughts to save you the trouble, I have reproduced one below (this was under "Three Wheelers of the Batch"). Next time you meet your husband's buddy, recall this incident. He might have vague memories.

    AnonymousNovember 29, 2015 at 8:14 AM
    I remember Tilak not that well. He was in our medical pre-clinical group with Dr. K S de Silva |(Kira). KS accorded us a dinner & drinks at the end of appointment when Tilak came out of his inhibitions and sang that song " "Little Dutch Girl" and Mrs Ks was very impressed as she was Dutch Years later when I was on Inspection of Masterton Hospital Blood Service in NZ, I bumped into KS as he was the Physician there. He invited us to visit him. We stayed a week-end with him along with my son who was doing his Elective at Whakatane (Maori pronunciation is 'FUCK_A_TANE !!) and Mrs KS inquired after Tilak remembering his rendition. I could not shed much light on his where-a-bouts then!!........ So, at least he is not forgotten!!.

    Razaque

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    On 14 December 2015 at 14:42, Rohini Anandaraja wrote:
    Dear Lucky
    Thank you for the good wishes.
    I wish you and your family a very Happy festive season and New Year too.
    It is strange sending greeting cards always ends up in the wife's department !!

    I've had a string of visitors since mid November- the last of whom-Dr.Kirthi De Silva (you may have encountered him in your pre-clinical year) and his wife left today - he has been a good friend of Ana's since Kindergarten days, and is very interesting company.
    I have a few days before my daughter arrives .She'll be here for just 8 days and I have to make the most of it.
    Looking forward to getting my hands on a special book too-
    With Best Wishes

    Rohini"

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