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Friday, April 28, 2017

A Friendship that has stood the Test of Time

There are two articles that you should read in the Leisure section of last Sunday's Island newspaper.
One is about the Keynote address delivered by Harischandra Boralessa's (Bora) wife Harshi at the centenary celebrations of Visakha Vidyalaya Past Pupils Association at the London Buddhist Vihara.
The other is about a long standing E-mail group of Old Anandians which is still active written by me (Mine is reproduced below).

Click on the following link to read both.

http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=163895

If the link doesn't work,

1) Go to Google and type Infolanka.
2) Click on Island newspaper
3) You will see today's edition. Look for Island archives (on the right hand side)
4) Click on Sunday Island of 23rd April
5) Click on the Leisure section at the top.



 

article_image
A gathering of old Ananda College classmates at Blue Water, Wadduwa some years ago. Left to right - the late WDH Perera (Dermatologist), Ranjit Santiago, Lakhi Liyanage, Nalin Vitarana, the late Mike Udabage, Lakshman Abeyagunawardene, Upali Wickramasinghe and Pundarika Perera. 

by Lakshman Abeyagunawardene



We came together when we were all classmates at Ananda in the late fifties. When we left school after the University Entrance Examination in December 1960, we went our different ways, but met occasionally from time to time. It was with the advent of electronic communication before the turn of the Millennium, that we started exchanging e-mails as a group on a daily basis. This e-mail group has been exchanging e-mails with each other regularly over an unbroken period ever since then to this date – a total of about 20 years, to cement and reinforce a friendship that has lasted well over 60 years. The Founder of this small e-mail group was one in that group until his sad, untimely demise some years ago. To us as schoolboys at Ananda College, he was simply Mahipala Udabage, although he held important office as Head Prefect of Ananda and leader of the English debating team apart from numerous other minor extra-curricular assignments.

A few years before we dispersed on leaving school, Mahipala shot into prominence after he won the prestigious New York Herald Tribune scholarship at age 17, selection for which was based on an all-island essay competition on the topic "The World We Want". Past winners of this annual essay competition included the cream of schoolboy talent at that time. Jayantha Dhanapala of Trinity, the Fernando brothers Tissa and Gemunu of Royal and yet another distinguished Old Anandian Priyalal Kurukulasuriya to name a few. Mahipala too proceeded to the US and returned three months later acquiring the nickname "Mike". His host family in the States had found that calling him Mike was much easier than his parent given first name Mahipala. The nickname stuck on and to his close friends, he was Mike Udabage since then. Following a short stint in the private sector in Sri Lanka, he migrated to Australia in the early seventies. Mike has been a media person from the age of 27 and was domiciled in Sydney at the time of his untimely death.

In the December 1960 UE examination, along with Mike, two others in the group were selected to enter the Science Faculty of the University of Ceylon as it was then called. They were Daya Wickramatunga (a former District Governor of Lions Clubs and Head of the Unilever subsidiary Ceytea in Agrapatana and Upali Wickramasinghe who dabbled in distilling spirits throughout his professional career which included a long stint at Gilbeys. Ironically, Mike chose to decline the University offer of admission to the Science Faculty and joined A. Baur and Company as a Medical Representative straight from school. Lakshman (Lakhi) Liyanage proceeded to UK at a very young age and blossomed out to qualify in UK as an accountant, ending up his professional career as Chairman of the Organisation for Tourism and Hospitality Management in Great Britain. Like Mike, Ranjit Santiago left Ceylon "for good" after a short spell in the private sector. Now well settled in Connecticut, USA, he is a former Director of Marketing at Bayer Pharmaceuticals in USA and retired as an international consultant to the Dutch pharmaceutical company Akzo-Nobel. Being the last member of the e-mail group, the writer makes up the lot and he himself qualified to enter the Colombo Medical Faculty of the University of Ceylon based on the results of the same UE examination.

Though scattered in different parts of the globe, even with the loss of Founder Mike Udabage, the remaining five have continued to correspond with each other as a group. Lakhi Liyanage has made England his permanent home. As stated before, Ranjit Santiago lives in retirement in the US. For the most part of each year, Daya Wickramatunga lives in Australia, but prefers to spend the Australian winters in Sri Lanka. Only Upali Wickramasinghe and the writer presently live in Sri Lanka, although the latter had lived abroad for several years before returning home "for good" in 2009.

Electronic communication knows no boundaries and e-mails on varied subjects were reaching recipients from senders with our inboxes being filled and emptied daily. If there is prolonged silence from an individual due to some reason, the rest of us begin to wonder and hasten to inquire. We engage in heated debates and fierce arguments, but not with any anger or malice. We write on anything under the sun – current affairs, local and international politics, sports, music etc. You name it and it is there. Most importantly, the constant dialogue keeps us all occupied just like Mike, who was in perfect control of all his faculties until the bitter end. However, although we have carried on all these years, the absence of Mike is sorely felt.

My personal opinion as a medical doctor is that even after retirement, a person should keep himself or herself occupied with the brain functioning actively. This is where non professional interests (like sports) and hobbies (like music) come in. Sudden retirement without any of them is a disaster waiting to happen. Keeping in touch with old friends either through electronic mail or other means, is definitely one way in which the brain can be exercised optimally. There lies the key to staving off dementias including the dreaded and much talked about Alzheimer’s disease.

In conclusion, let me throw in a few more examples of how old ties can be maintained. As stated before, Anandian contemporaries of our era have been having "get-togethers" and other events from time to time. Apart from being involved in the affairs of the Ananda Old Boys Association, Senior Old Anandians Association and the Old Anandians Sports Club, I had the pleasure of attending the launch of the publication "Anandaya – the first 125 Years" by the OBA to commemorate 125 years of Ananda. It was held at the Faculty of Graduate Studies of the University of Colombo on March 28 and provided yet another opportunity to meet and greet old friends from school days.

In the same way, we have been able to keep our medical school batch together. I still maintain a blog that I started in 2011 as part of the build up towards our 2012 Reunion held to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of our entry to the Colombo Medical Faculty. We have just concluded the 50th Anniversary Batch Reunion (to mark 50 years since graduation) which was held at Jetwing Blue Hotel in Negombo. The Colombo Medschool Alumni Association (CoMSAA) holds the annual sessions and get-together in September of each year.

Yet another social gathering of Old Anandians of my era will be held on June 2, 3 and 4 this year. Dr. Ranjith Hettiarachchi of Melbourne has taken the lead in putting together the event, proving yet again that electronic communication can do much in organizing such events and staying in touch with old friends.

6 comments:

  1. Lucky,I read your article with great interest. A lot to learn form it for all of us. I tried to access Harshi's article but there is no Leisure section that I can see. Any advice?

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  2. If you saw the Sunday Island of 23rd April, "Leisure" is on the horizontal bar at the top.

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  3. Interesting. Can you e- mail Ranjits e mail address to me. I last met him in Melbourne over 10 years ago & he is married to one of Ranis good friends.

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  4. http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=163893

    The above is a direct link to the Harshi article

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  5. Lucky, this is very interesting. it amazes me that you've kept in touch with these friends on a daily basis. Iam lucky if I even get to sit at a computer daily!! You've even remembered details of their achievements over all these years. I guess it is the same way you've tried to keep our batch together .
    many thanks Lucky

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  6. Lucky
    Your memory for detail astounds me. Its great to be in touch with school friends. Those are strong friendships made during our formative years.

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