Wednesday, May 17, 2017
THE SPEEDY VIRTUAL INTERVIEW SERIES
Episode 2, May 2017
Zita Perera Subasinghe, Ophthalmologist, Pianist and Writer.
It is my great pleasure to record this virtual interview with my close friend Zita and I thank her for her kind permission to post this on our own Blog, ColomboMedgrads1962 which as we all know is the brainchild of Lucky Abeyagunawardene.
Speedy: Good morning Zita. Thank you so much for agreeing.
Zita: Good morning Mahendra, or should it be Speedy?
Speedy: Oh yes, it could be Speedy, Mahen, Mahendra or even Gonsal. Zita, we know of course that you entered the Faculty in 1962. The photo I am showing you came from your “signature book” which we all had to maintain.Was yours a direct entry or did you do the six months’ course first?
Zita:That photo, gosh, it seems such a long time ago! About my entering the Medical Faculty, I first did the six months’ course in Chemistry.
Speedy: And remind us which school you came from and anything special you did at School
Zita:I attended Good Shepherd Convent Kotahena. It was a wonderful time. Writing was my hobby at all times.
Speedy:When you say writing, what sort of writing did you do at school? Have you got anything on record you can share with us?
Zita: There were many clubs in the school and I would be the one to volunteer to write any articles for publication in the school magazine or paper. I may be able to find something I saved somewhere but I can’t be sure. Three friends and I had a 'secret society' just for fun. And sometimes we would share poems and articles each of us has written. I am only in touch with one of these friends right now.
Speedy: We know your skills with the piano and keyboard. Could you tell us how you got into this what must have been, and still is, a highly satisfying pastime?
Zita:My mum sent me for music lessons at age 7 years. By 11 when I had done about 4 exams I fell ill and my dad stopped me doing music lessons. There was a break of about 30 years and once I arrived in the UK I bought a piano and now while I can read music I prefer to play ‘by ear’.
Speedy: Who would you say inspired you most as a student at school?
Zita:I had a couple of very good teachers. Mrs Subramaniam truly inspired me. I have a friend Angela, who was in school with me, who now lives in New Zealand. She was my best friend and she encouraged me. I am still in touch with her.
Speedy: Let’s talk about the Medical Faculty. Can you recall your first week’s experience?
Zita: It’s a haze. I was nervous, felt like a fish out of water but I looked at the boys who were going through rag week and I felt so lucky nobody was interested in me.
Speedy: How great a transition was it in your life?
Zita: It was a great transition but when you’ve worked hard to get there, you just count yourself really lucky and any negative side is easily forgotten.
Speedy: I can quite relate to that Zita. Let us dwell for a moment on our teachers. We all remember the great teachers we had and would you like to talk a bit about them?
Zita: Prof Carlo Fonseka, oh I so admired him! He was so approachable too. Prof Koch was a favourite too and later Prof Rajasuriya. Oh dear I hope I got his name right, it’s my memory gremlins at work. I consider all the teachers we had a bunch of the best that ever there was.Then in my six months’ course in Chemistry one of my professors was Prof C. Dharmawardena. He gave me tremendous encouragement during lectures if I happened to answer a question put to the students with a suitable answer, and he had that amazing ability to make the subject interesting, the hallmark of a good teacher.
Speedy:You did get Prof KR right! This is all good. Is there any experience that stands out?
Zita:I remember answering a question on how muscle tone is maintained, in our second MB physiology exam and being told by one of our teachers that I did a very good answer. It was rare for me to get such comments so it meant a lot.
Speedy:Good feedback is always a boost! Coming on to your career choice, we know you chose Ophthalmology as a career in which you distinguished yourself in Sri Lanka and in the UK. I would be very interested to know how you chose that particular path and whether your husband Joe was an influence. Perhaps you could talk about how you met Joe too!
Zita: Yes of course, Joe had a great influence on that choice, plus when I arrived in Cardiff, South Wales, where Joe did his optometry studies, we looked for a job for me around there and the first one that came to my notice was a SHO in Ophthalmology! So I just accepted it. And the rest is history, as they say.
Speedy:Quite! Your career had spells in both Countries. Do you have any regrets that you ended up in the UK rather than practising in Sri Lanka?
Zita: No. I think as doctors, as long as we care for sick human beings in any part of the world, we are doing what Sri Lanka trained us to do. And besides I was better able to help my family financially and this was very important as I was the eldest.
Speedy: As you know Zita, this topic has been much discussed in our blog and I am sure we all appreciate that personal circumstances differ and we all have to make choices in life.
Let us move on to talking about your family, and knowing you well, I know that family is very important to you. I am sure readers would like to know more about your family. Could you talk about them now if you don’t mind?
Zita: As I said, we were a family of 11 children, and I was the eldest and the only girl. My father died when I was in my 3rd MB. So after I qualified I was able to help mum financially. I arrived in the UK to work, and in 1974 mum died of Multiple Myeloma. But fortunately, most of my brothers did higher qualifications and are all employed. Four died along the way at quite young ages and now there are 7 of us.
My own family of hubby, Joe and children, Nisha and Rohan and daughter in law Tanuja, and now our grandson Riyan, mean all the world to me. I am truly proud of them.
Speedy: So you should be! I didn’t realise that you had to experience such a lot of sadness but your dedication to family comes as no surprise. I consider myself lucky to have met Joe and your lovely kids; one can hardly call them kids! The recent arrival of Riyan (the main reason you were not able to attend the last Batch Reunion), meant so much to his parents and to you and Joe. I am glad that he is doing well. Coming back to music, do you still pursue your interest in Music? I also gather that you are bit of a linguist!
Zita: Well I have a Clavinova 605 model which practically ‘plays itself’!
Speedy: You are being very modest! You are quite an accomplished player! We have enjoyed listening to your YouTube posts with you on the Clavinova and Joe doing the vocals.
Zita: If you say so! And about the linguist bit, I study French as Joe and I love France and we visit it as often as possible. And I like the French language. It’s not easy but it’s so rewarding to learn it.
Speedy:My French is quite limited and I do think it is a beautifully sounding language. On a more personal level, now that we are all older and hopefully wiser, are you willing to share with us any views you may have about the meaning of life, morals, ethics, patriotism and other deeper issues?
Zita: That would take pages, Mahendra! In a few simple words, I think it’s a great gift to be born, and we should enjoy our lives and take care of our spouse, children and all dependents and get on with others we meet in our lives. Only do something if it doesn’t hurt anyone. Educate yourself to the highest possible level available to you. Carry out your life’s work to the best of your ability. Live one moment at a time and don’t fret about the future. And I am a Christian so I follow its precepts and hold on to its values.
Speedy: That is sound and very practical advice. It should appeal to all of us.
Zita: Well, as human beings, we should look after and care for our fellow beings as best as we can and we also have a duty to look after our own selves.
Speedy:Quite true. Zita, you have been a regular contributor to our Blog which was started and so well managed by the tireless Lucky. Any general views on it and any advice on how we can encourage more participation?
Zita;Everyone knows how much I admire Lucky, you and all others who have helped in various ways to run this Blog. I still have faith that other batch mates will take a more active part. It only takes a few minutes to do a small contribution which will make everyone happy. We can learn so much from one another. We worked together for 5 undergrad years. We can’t possibly forget all that.
Speedy:I agree with you entirely. And finally Zita, as with all of us, we have more contact with some of our colleagues than with others as is perfectly natural. Any thoughts on your closest contacts and what it means to you?
Zita: Right now I am in regular contact with you and Nihal and also Lucky. Then there is Suji Maligaspe, Malkanthie, Pramilla and Suriyakanthie. We have never lost touch with one another in all these 50 years. It is possible that I may have missed somebody as my memory is playing tricks on me at times! If I did, sorry!Not forgetting of course the regular blog contributors and those who post comments.
Speedy: Thank you for taking part in Episode 2 of the Speedy Virtual Interview Series. May I wish you and all your family good health and happiness?
Zita: Thank you Speedy for your interest and I do hope that these memoirs, recalled at your behest, will be of interest to Blog readers and I do hope you will continue this series. Thank you so much.
Speedy: My pleasure Zita. And that concludes Episode 2. Watch out for Episode 3 which will follow soon.