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Friday, March 25, 2011

Youthful Exuberance

                  Law-Medical '63 (Photo courtesy Sunday Times of Ceylon of March 3, 1963)

Our batch was somewhat unique in that we were subjected to a second rag (in addition to the traditional “Freshers’ Rag” soon after registration) by our seniors, when we were well into our second year in medical school. As if that punishment was not enough, almost all the males in the batch were suspended for two weeks and fined Rupees ten by the university’s Board of Residence and Discipline. When the Law and Medical Colleges met in their annual cricket encounter in 1963, we (who were Block Juniors) paraded the streets of Colombo in an open truck maintaining a tradition established by our seniors. We were appropriately dressed for the occasion in black shirts complete with the skull and cross bones emblem. However, things got a bit out of hand when the marauding medicos invaded the pitch and disrupted play in the Royal-Trinity inter-school cricket match that was being played at Reid Avenue. The icing on the cake was the unannounced “visit” to Castle Street Girls School at Borella (present Devi Balika Vidyalaya) to provide unsolicited “entertainment” to the giggling schoolgirls. Not withstanding the flood of complaints that followed, it was obvious that the young girls enjoyed the proceedings as much as the boys did.

The grand finale was at the foot of the Lighthouse at Chaitya Road near Galle Face at the conclusion of the match on the second day. The few sober colleagues who were eye witnesses, later described the scene when black shirted revelers who had taken one too many, were virtually thrown into the back of a truck like sacks of potatoes close to midnight. I remember waking up groggily with a splitting headache the next day. Looking around, I realised that I was in bed with three others (who were still asleep) dressed in soiled black shirts. Other beds in the room were similarly over-occupied. As my mind cleared, I was able to put two and two together. The many casualties from the previous night had been unceremoniously transported to a well-known men’s medical hostel in Colombo by colleagues who managed to stay relatively sober that night.

                         Block Concert '63 (Lareef Idroos and Lucky Abey in the foreground)

Contrary to popular belief, medical students at least of our generation were not poring over books all the time. Besides the annual Law-Medical cricket encounter and the 2nd MB and final-year trips, the annual Block Concert and Dance was one of the most looked forward to fun events in a medical student’s diary. The concert preceded the dance, and traditionally, it was the freshers who not only played the lead in organising the event, but in acting on the stage as well.

One of the items put up by our batch in 1962 was an African tribal dance with an all-male cast. “Female” dancers (that included me) were scantily dressed in skirts made of straw and a “thana patiya” tied around the upper torso with padding underneath in the right places. Both the scantily dressed “females” and their male partners were liberally daubed with a mixture of oil and powdered charcoal to make them look like dark-skinned Africans. The women dancers also had human bones to hold their hair in place much like a “Konda Koora” that women use. They wore necklaces in which the “beads” were actually human teeth and vertebrae. I recollect (vaguely) how the high-spirited actors jumped down from the stage at the conclusion of their act and walked right through the aisle in the New Arts Theatre at Thurstan Road. It was like cutting through butter with a hot knife when well-dressed guests in the audience including Faculty Staff, scrambled to get out of the way to avoid getting the greasy black stuff on their own clothing.

                                                   Ready for the Final Year Trip 1966

This was the last fun event before we settled down to concentrate on the final examinations held in March 1967. At least to the majority of us, it was also the last time before the exams that we were able to treat ourselves with unlimited doses of alcohol. Over four fun-filled days, we drank, ate, sang and danced to our hearts content. Our hosts were senior doctors stationed in Kegalle, Ratnapura, Kurunegala and Badulla.
On our return to Colombo, we assembled near the clock tower at Kynsey Road from where we dispersed singing my own substituted (unprintable) lyrics of the song "Carnival is Over" made popular by "The Seekers". Our own version of "Carnival is Over" was the theme song of that memorable trip.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

New SLMA President

Professor Sanath P. Lamabadusuriya, former Dean and Professor of Paediatrics of the  Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo was inducted as the President of the Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) for 2011 on 22 January 2011 at a ceremony held at the auditorium of the Hatton National Bank.

In December 2010, the University of Ruhuna invited him to deliver the Convocation Address and also honoured him with a Doctor of Science (D.Sc) degree. Very few medical doctors have been thus honoured.

Prof. Lamabadusuriya is the second member of our batch to hold this prestigious office. Suriyakanthi Karunaratne Amarasekera was SLMA President in 2006

Thursday, March 17, 2011

50th Anniversary Reunion Planning Committee

The 50th Anniversary Reunion Planning Committee met for the very first time at Swyrie Balendra's residence on March 14th, 2011. Starting off early, one would think. But that's how it should be. Success of an event depends on how well it is planned. The purpose of the meeting was mainly to brainstorm on probable dates and venues. Final decisions will be conveyed to the batch once they are finalised.

The committee comprises of:

Swyrie Balendra - Chairperson
Priya de Silva
Pramilla Senanayake
Surangani Fernando
Lucian Perera
Sriani Basnayake
J.C. Fernando
S.A.P. Gnanissara
Lakshman Abeyagunawardene

Suriyakanthi Amarasekera was not present at the first meeting. However, Anton Ambrose participated as a guest.

Familiar Sights

Kynsey Road Entrance to the General Hospital (now the National Hospital of Sri Lanka)

During our medical student days, there was a middle-aged woman dressed in saree who was peddling multi-coloured medicinal oils in tiny bottles near the hospital gate. Just before visiting hours, she had a captive audience of patients' visitors and she waxed eloquent about the healing powers of the oils (kokatath thailaya). During the freshers' rag of June 1962, I was ordered by our honourable seniors to buy a tea bun from the milk booth near the clock tower, stuff it in my mouth (with half of it jutting out) and stand beside the woman with my hands behind my back. It must have been some sight to see a young man dressed in a white satin drill suit, wearing one tennis shoe and one black shoe with not only a shoeflower in the coat buttonhole, but also a brinjal round the neck, standing side by side with the woman while she was doing her sales talk. When the saleswoman chased me away uttering some choice words after tolerating me for some time, I was quite relieved!

Our Teachers

We learned the finer art of tending to the sick under the healing hands of such eminent teachers as Professors O.E.R. Abhayaratne, A.C.E. Koch, M.J. Waas, A.A. Hoover, S.R. Kottegoda, G.H. Cooray, H.V.J. Fernando, A.D. Chapman, A.S. Dissanaike, K. Rajasuriya, D.A. Ranasinghe, Milroy Paul, R.A. Navaratne, C.C. de Silva, Priyani Soysa ably assisted by N.D.W. Lionel, Valentine Basnayake, Carlo Fonseka, Lester Jayawardene, Sobitha Pandithratne, Daphne Attygalle, Mrs. Yoganathan, W.J. Gomes, Nandadasa Kodagoda, Earle de Fonseka, A. Sinnethamby, T. Visvanathan, M.C. Karunairatnam and Oliver Peiris. We “clerked” under the giant clinicians of the day such as P.R. Anthonis, L.D.C. Austin, S. Gunawardene, C.J.L. Misso, N.A.J. Niles, K.G. Jayasekara, Noel Bartholomeuz, E.C.J. Rustomjee, D.J. Attygalle, R.P. Jayewardene, W.Wijenaike, Oliver Medonza, R.S. Thanabalasunderam, Ernie Peiris, Stella de Silva, Stanley de Silva, Hamza, Hunt, E.H. Mirando, P.R. Walpita, G.N. Perera, the two Rasanayagams (ENT “Rasa” and Orthopaedic “Rasa”), Arulpragasam, Francis Silva, Rienzie Peiris, Deva Adithya, Sri Skandarajah, Thamber, Pararajasegaram, Sivasubramaniam, Lloyd Weerakoon, Lucas, Ponnambalam, Shelton Cabraal, Darrel Weinman, George Ratnavale, Willie Ratnavale, J.R. Wilson, and so on. Only a handful of them are living today. But their dedication to teaching and memories of all the long hours they spent with medical students and patients in the wards will always be remembered.

In Memoriam

We came to know each other almost half a century ago. Since then, fifteen of our dear friends have departed this world. On the eve of our 50th Anniversary, let us pay homage to them with bowed heads.

1. S.R. de Silva (Sunna)
2. A.R.K. Paul (Russel)
3. Ms. M.D.F. de Silva Paul (Dawne)
4. R.A.D.W. Bernard (Bernard Randeniya)
5. N. Chandrasiri (Chandre)
6. V. Ganeson (Ganesh)
7. L.G.D.K. Herath (Irwin)
8. V.Kunasingham (Kunam)
9. B.L. Perera (BL)
10. B. Somasunderam (Bobby)
11. K. Sunderampillai (Pillai)
12. D.E.T. Wickramarachchi (Tudor)
13. K.N. Wimalaratne (Kiththa)
14. Anna Ponnambalam Sathiagnanan
15. A. Satchithananda

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Colombo Medgrads of 1962

Planning for the 50th Anniversary

Hello Everyone!

As we start planning for our 50th Anniversary of entering medical school, I have taken the first steps in developing a simple blog for easier communication. It is primarily for the 1962 entrants to the Colombo Medical Faculty of the University of Ceylon (as it was then known). The blog will carry important news items, pictures, e-mail messages, announcements etc. Please feel free to send in your comments to: or direct to my personal e-mail address: We can improve on it as we go on and gather momentum.

Lakshman Abeyagunawardene (Lucky)