Wednesday, July 20, 2016
My first impressions of the Physiology Lecture Theatre
Dr Mahendra Gonsalkorale
We walked in through the large wooden doors and gazed in awe at the imposing lecture hall with semi-circular seating using benches ascending in tiers to the back of the hall. Each row of benches had a flat board in front to keep writing material. There were about 10 rows, may be more. The walls were wood paneled and right in front, between the two entrance doors, was a long rectangular Desk about 4 feet high and placed on a wooden platform with sufficient room behind the desk to place several stools for the lecturers to sit if needed. The wall behind the lecturer was a vast expanse of black board with a long chalk holder tray at the bottom.
I had seen nothing like it before and my feelings could be compared to how a visitor to St Paul’s Cathedral might have experienced on his first visit.
We were seated in alphabetical order with the Abeysuriyas and Ahamats in the front rows and the Wickremasinghes at the back. Very different from school days when the bright sparks sat in front and the trouble makers at the back. On the centre of the back wall was a large analogue clock. Right through Medical Faculty, this adherence to the alphabet was honoured and to this day, our closest associates tend to be our alphabetical neighbours. Generally speaking, the De Silvas know the Fernandos well as do the Wickremasighes know the Vishweshwaras of this world.
Soon, the hall was filled with that general nondescript noise generated by a multitude of voices speaking at the same time. One is reminded of the noise made by a gaggle of geese.
Soon the noise gradually abated to almost a hush as the lecturer walked in through the door, ascended the platform , sat on the tall stool, glared at us and after a pregnant pause, wished us good morning before commencing his lecture.
This was the arena where in our first two years, Prof Koch, tall, bespectacled with thick black circular rims and “bottle bottom lenses”, black hair combed back and held in place with liberal amounts of Brylcreem attempting to hide a spreading bald patch, and always dressed impeccably in a light coloured suit, held forth in his own inimitable style.
In our third year, this Lecture hall was also used by the diminutive Prof Kottegoda for his ramblings on Pharmacology, illustrated with a piece of chalk which traced a tortuous and apparently meaningless path on the black board from the top left hand corner to the bottom right hand corner. Many a time, he would pause and gaze at the ceiling. Was it for inspiration or hidden notes engraved on the white ceiling, I shall never know. But my lasting memory was how I saw him behind the desk, sitting on a stool as we walked in, and waiting for all of us to come and settle down. Then he stood up and virtually disappeared from view! Having not met him before, I didn’t realise that although he may have reached great intellectual heights, he was somewhat lacking on the physical aspect.