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Saturday, January 9, 2016

Keeping in touch – “To Blog or not to Blog”

An E-mail from Mahendra (Speedy) Gonsalkorale

If I pose that question by dropping the ‘l’, the answer is easy! I was tempted to write as I have been wondering for some time why our Blog is not as popular as I was hoping it would be. This view may be erroneous if we base popularity on the number of hits as nearly 890,000 is not bad for a Blog! But we must remember that this is probably not a true representation of popularity as quite a number are automatically generated by surfing robots, as I have pointed out before. These are automated mini-programs, which search Blogs hoping to dredge useful data such as emails of people. Even if for argument’s sake we regard that 50% are robotic hits, it still leaves a healthy 400,000 plus hits. But if we consider how interactive it is, by looking at numbers who comment, then we do fall short by quite a margin. The total number of persons who have commented is below 20 and of these there are less than 10 very active people.

The questions I am posing are these. Why is the comment rate low? How can we get more people involved? How many of our Batch colleagues actually use it? Is it worth sending a questionnaire by email to get the answers? Does the Blog serve a purpose? Is the time and effort made by Lucky so unselfishly, worth it?

Or is this a wider issue about how school friends or University friends keep in touch? We have moved in different directions and we have built up new friendships and we may feel a need to move on putting our past behind us, especially if that part of our past is something we want to forget. We have formed groupings within us based on where we live and our own interests. Our circles have widened and those who we consider worth keeping in touch, we still do but the criterion has to be much wider than “he/she was my batch colleague”. The bonds that we had then have to be very strong for them to survive the ravages of time. We are pleasant when we see each other, but life has taken us in different directions, and we have moved on. We may not feel the need to rekindle the relationship.

Then there is the question of priorities. There never ever is enough time to do what we wish to do and looking at the Blog may not be a priority. Like a good restaurant, if we enjoy the experience, we will come back!

There are other possible factors such as familiarity with computers and the Internet. I still have friends who get their children to set up their TV, check their email!

How much a person uses anything depends a lot on how useful (enjoyable) it is to that person. The Blog may be an avenue to display their talents (music/poetry with me and Zita, and writing in ND’s). It may be a pleasant way to spend time reminiscing. It may rekindle old friendships (e.g., with Razaque in my case). It gives us an opportunity to rejoice at the success of colleagues (e.g. Lama), it may be a medium to recall with pleasure a time we were together at a critical phase of our life, it can be a way to show our appreciation to our Teachers, it could be a medium to enlist help for a good cause connected with our Medical Faculty. It has also been a reminder of our mortality with the growing number of obituary notices.

I have posed many questions and tried to indicate why I feel that the Blog has a lot to offer. I am a firm believer in putting the past behind and moving on. There is no time like the present moment but the present moment could be enriched by learning from the past, but not dwelling in it pondering on the “what might have been”. That kind of reflection, the “what might have been”, is pointless and corrosive and is a recipe for discontent.

But to me, what is important in the final analysis is not how frequently we keep in touch but the ability to pick up and continue from where we left. I felt that very much at the last Batch Reunion when I met colleagues after so many years.

So come on my friends, pull out your fingers and start typing on your keyboards either as a comment, or as an email to one of us. As for me, I enjoy reading the Blog and contributing to it and shall continue to do so.

With best wishes,



  1. Speedy has raised some very valid points in his timely letter. He has also tried to analyse the reasons for non-participation of a majority of batch members in blog activities.

    To supplement what Speedy has mentioned, may I remind everyone once again that 166 of us entered the Colombo Medical Faculty on 1 June 1962. 28 of them have passed away leaving 138 to carry on as a batch.

    On paper, of the 138, 100 have provided e-mail addresses for our Batch Directory. But at least 15 of them bounce back whenever I send out an e-mail to the batch. They have not bothered to update their contact information. The blog that I started with great hopes, has now been reduced to a "club" where only a handful contribute, comment and generally interact with each other on a daily basis. As you know, E-mail and blogs such as ours, provide a convenient and economic means to communicate with each other. It is so sad that very few are inclined to use this facility.

    I have tried all means to coax members of the batch to be more active in this respect. But as I indicated some time ago, my efforts have been in vain. I am quite certain that at this rate, the blog will stagnate in this fashion, if the few of us who still continue to be active remain in that mode in time to come.

    I will not be surprised if what I have written above is read only by the group that has now come to be called the "Regulars"!

  2. Mahen and Lucky have tried their hardest to include as much as our batch as possible to take part in the Blog. I think what we see now is what we can get. You could do no more. Mahen has kindly given us the possible reasons why batchmates do not join in. I agree entirely. Plain and simple apathy and lack of IT skills must come high on the list. The Blogs dependence on Google and Google Chrome causes problems for Ipad and Mac uses. There are ways round it for those who are computer savvy.

    After I switch on the computer in the morning I see the Blog first. The music, poetry, prose and paintings lighten up my day. The Blog is like a favourite TV program. Mahen's music from our childhood is a good example. Sanath L writes his views about medical current issues. Zita's brilliant poetry is so wonderful. It is my fix for the day. The archive in the Blog is tremendous. I keep in touch with batchmates using the phone or email and don't use the Blog for it..

    We are grateful to Lucky for his efforts. I personally hope it will survive a lot longer. I do realise nothing is forever.

  3. I have become active only during the last few months. I am sorry that I dis not contribute earlier. Only a hand full are active at present (ND,Mahen, Lucky, Razaque Zita and myself). I access it about 3 or 4 times a day and try to post an appropriate comment when ever possible. I have copied our blog spot to my mailing list, colleagues and former students. Sometimes there are surprises eg. Keith Paul communicating with me after reading what I wrote about Russel in our blog spot.Few of us should maintain the momentum and hope for the best.

  4. Hi Mahendra! This is a very important discussion and I am truly glad you have analysed it in such great detail and I feel you are spot-on in your conclusions. May I offer one explanation which I always I had on the relative inactivity of our members? It's just inertia, and lethargy. Once I discussed it with Lucky about it being Internet Inertia. You are of course right about some being internet shy. And another reason is the same as why so few friends bother to reply to our emails and keep up a conversation. And they probably don't open their in boxes regularly. But be it less than 20, let those who contribute redouble their efforts and make the blog really interesting. There's nothing to lose. Lucky will stand as the hero in all this. It can't be easy to monitor everything and keep everyone happy.

  5. Okay. There are those who want to keep to themselves. I don't want to mention names, but I have not seen or heard from some since March 1967! Then there are those who have e-mail addresses, but never check e-mail. Some check e-mail once a week or whenever they feel like it. Would you believe that there are some who may or may not have had even a fleeting glimpse of a computer from outside, but never wanted to even see how one works! Unless they receive a telephone call from a caring friend, they are completely isolated.

    The other day, one such individual told me that he was hearing about the death of three batch colleagues within the space of a few months. If I had not brought him up to date, these deaths would have been news to him even in another year's time. As they don't read newspapers either, they never attend funerals. Thus they don't meet anyone even at such sad occasions.

    This morning, Vedavanam's wife Dushyanthi (here on holiday from UK) is coming to see me. She insisted on doing so because she will be in the Battaramulla area today. Lakshman Jayasinghe and Nihal Goonetilleke (Gompa) are in town right now. JC told me that 11 from the batch had been at a party hosted by Pram last Sunday to meet Rohini Abey and Jimmy Wickramasinghe. Although I was invited, I couldn't attend myself because we were busy with our daughter who too was on holiday. Chitta was here for a brief spell two weeks ago. Attale was here just before that. One thing I am happy about is that almost all these visitors contact me when they are here.

  6. Sriani writes.......

    Other reasons for not contributing to the Blog.

    There are still a few other reasons why our batch mates may not be participating in our Blog. I used to write often, but with old age catching up on me, I find myself suffering from "APR" or "atha paya rudarwa". When Swyrie and I were first posted to the OPD of the then General Hospital in the mid 70s, we found that about 50% of the tickets had the letters "APR" written on the cards. Soon we found out that APR stood for ‘Atha paya rudarwa’, and that there were many people who suffered from this. We thought it quite amusing, and laughed it off, and were quite ready to keep writing APR and prescribing one of the three mixtures available at the pharmacy those days....Mist Sodisal, Mist Carminative and Mist Pot cit. We may have 'mist' the diagnosis most of the time, but both patient and doctor were very happy! Anyway, to get back to my present condition, APR has now set in, and at most functions, lunches and dinners, I find myself "exchanging recipes" for various oils and embrocations for APR, for most of my friends are now in this same medical category. My current "kokatath thailaya" which is a wonderful remedy for any "hundi kekkuma" ( joint pains) is an oil called "Sarshaparda thailaya" which i swear by, and is a good remedy for Arthritis! It costs only
    Rs 85 for a small bottle. My nephew next door has rented his house to an Indian firm, selling an oil called "Sandi Suda" for APR, which costs Rs 8500.00 a bottle! They advertise heavily on TV and employ 12-15 people to answer calls for Sandi Suda....they just can't cope with the demand! So Speedy, there must be dozens of people like me, wanting to contribute to the blog, but unable to do so due to APR!

    Sriani Basnayake.

    1. Sriani,sorry to hear of your APR
      Hope Sandi Suda will bring you relief and we'll see you back in the blog soon- Rohini Ana

  7. Mahen, your grave concern regarding the apparent lack of "popularity" of the blog came with a caption and sketch which
    gave me a giggle!
    Were there some misplaced letter (l) s somewhere?
    ?subtle humour!!
    On a serious note-I wish to add-
    1.Some in our batch are still in professional work and have limitations on the time available to them allowing for time for CME and professional development as well which go with work.
    2.some have family and community commitments-eg being in this age group, personally I have close friends who are no longer able to function as they did before and need support-which also means time-the least you can do for friends- Others may find the same-
    3.just the fact of being a female places you in a situation where most day to day responsibilities- from caring for ailing friends ,to entertaining guests,to all that goes with festivities have a way of ending up in the "wife's department".
    eg. at Xmas you've shopped and chosen gifts,wrapped them, delivered them and at the end of it writing the greeting cards
    also ends up in the "wife's department"!! ?familiar??
    4.As temperamental as computers can get- if to write a 2 line comment it takes half to 1 hour jumping hoops with account names,passwords,and proving you are not a robot,(while you are by nature computer-averse as I am), it is easier to refrain.
    Just as all these take time,engaging in a meaningful way in the blog also requires time.For instance ,though I felt I had to respond to Mahen and Lucky's concerns, I know I wont be able to follow up on this in the next two days as I will be at work all day and then have a guest for dinner when I return.
    Many others could be in similar situations.
    Personally I have valued the opportunities the blog has provided me with re-visiting school friends and getting in touch with batch mates that I didnt have the privilege to be acquainted with while at med school.
    I thank Lucky and Mahen for their efforts at trying to keep the batch in touch and for all the "bloggers" for their great efforts and wish you'd know your efforts have not gone unappreciated.May the blog flourish in this new year!

  8. Lucky, ND, Zita, Sriani, Rohini Ana, thank you for taking the time to comment.

    After reading all the comments, I feel I need to clarify my own feelings about the subject in question. In my mind, there was never a question of not commenting, not contributing or not browsing being regarded as a sign of “bad batch behaviour”. Freedom is important and we all have the freedom to choose what we do with our time. If any of my colleagues who are rare contributors or know of friends who never look at the Blog read this, please be reassured that in my case (I can’t speak for all), all of you remain valued colleagues. My objective was to seek opinions on why the blog is not as popular as I would like it to be and with that information, try and suggest whatever action is necessary to make it something our colleagues look forward to browsing frequently. There was never a question of “looking down” on our non-blogging friends as “useless buggers” using our unique medical parlance. I was just trying to find out how we can “make this web restaurant worth visiting”!

    1. Lama,my profound apologies for not including you in my acknowledgement above.

  9. Those who contribute and comment to the Blog are passionate about it. The opinions raised and comments made show the strength of feeling for the Blog. As we all have said let us carry on and see where it takes us. We will deal with the issues as they arise. So far it's been a brilliant forum. We thank Lucky for all the hard work and diplomacy.

  10. Here's the other Srianee commenting: Speedy, I think your observations have generated a lot of comments, which is great. I think Sriani's explanation of APR might be a big factor in lack of participation! Some of us are dealing with more serious health issues as well. Rohini's comment describing the juggling act that most of us have to do, especially if one is still working and female, is not sexist, but that is the plain and simple truth. Speaking for myself, I find the blog a lot of fun and a great way to keep in touch with those who are participating, but it is not a major priority in my life (sorry!) Unlike ND and Lama, I don't have a routine when it comes to sitting at my computer to check the blog. It is usually what I do after I have taken care of the more urgent demands on my time. The good news is that I am not planning to work at all next year (full retirement, yeah!) so you all may "see" me more on the blog.
    I think the biggest reason for non-participation is "technophobia." I know many people in our generation who use emails only sporadically or not at all. This includes people in our batch , and I won't name names! There are others, I think, who do check the blog but are insecure about making comments in spite of the instructions posted on the blog by Speedy and Lucky. I think we should carry on as we have been doing and hope that more people will join in next year. If we know anyone who may be interested in joining by making comments, let's give them a gentle nudge and see what happens. Hats off to all of you (even though I don't wear one) who keep it going, especially Lucky. Thank you!

    1. Srianee,You've done the juggling yourself and know what its all about.Thanks for your down-to-earth and sensible approach to this.

  11. I forgot one more thing: I think Rohini got the joke, didn't she?

    1. Srianee,Iam so glad you saw the humour in it!
      I was beginning to wonder whether this was unintentioned comedy when Speedy didnt seem to understand what I wrote!

    2. Hi Rohini,
      Great to be communicating with you here. I think it was an Intended joke on Mahen/Speedy's part. I seem to be participating on the blog in fits and starts, depending on what else is going on in my life. I'm sure it is that way with you too. I think you will see me a bit more in the next few months because I am taking a break from my usual routine. I'll send you a separate email later. All the best in 2016.

    3. Sriani,My apologies for the malapropism in my comment to you at 2.16am, noticed by me with embarrassment this pm.
      It should have read unintended or unintentional !
      This is what happens when my only chance to get on the blog is too late at night when my brain is half shut down and eyes nearly closed !! So sorry!
      Look forward to your email and Wish you a very happy 2016 too-Rohini Ana

  12. Good to see you Srianee, and as honest and straightforward as always! I am glad that you enjoy your bog, sorry blog visits ("what the 'l' Rohini Ana!) when time permits. Like you, I wasn't quite sure whether our dear Rohini got the joke (Were there some misplaced letter (l) s somewhere? ?subtle humour!! - she said!). Sorry Rohini if you did get it and I am wrong.

    Srianee, at some point in the future, it would be interesting to have your views on how Medical students are taught in the USA comparing it to our own experience in the dim distant past.

    All the best to you for 2016- another year goes by----- so quickly, dammit!

    1. No worries Mahen -see reply to Srianee (Bunter)-
      I was hoping you wouldnt think I had read something naughty into your serious post !

  13. Hi Speedy, that is something to think about, and I will...

    1. Super! Look forward to it in the fullness of time.

  14. You can now receive notifications of new posts in the Blog to your chosen email address.

    Please go to the Blog ( will see near the top Right "Follow by Email", just below "top comments". Please enter your e-mail address there and click on "submit". A new window will open asking you to type some characters to make sure you are genuine (and not a robot). When you do that, you will receive an e-mail in your Inbox with a link to verify that you did request receiving notifications from the Blog. Click on that and you will be told that you will receive a daily notification if there are new posts, no new posts --> no e-mail notifications etc. This is applicable only to NEW posts. It may take a day or two to start but the latest Bog post will appear on the notification