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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Creative Spot - New Year Poem by Zita (Perera) Subasinghe

I wish you all my colleagues and your families Best Wishes this Season and a Happy New Year 2015! 

From: Zita Perera Subasinghe
What was it all about?

O yes 2014, what was it about?

                     Was it An Act, or a jest?

                     Dressed to the nines, smart no doubt

                    Sad inside but in Sunday best?

  It started with a song and dance

  But it all went up in smoke

  Big start- ups, in with a chance

  Now it seems, ‘twas just a joke



Exam, Project or Conference      

We, our kids, and our friends

Did in total ignorance

Of where this fab dream ends!

Joyful celebrations continued                    

But so also did the wars

 Replete with enslavement, servitude

While some dreamt of going to Mars!


One country standing against another

In the name of caste and creed

One man standing against his brother

What triumphed was selfish greed

 Few good things like lights twinkled  

Few good men, noble, strong

Were like stars sparsely sprinkled

As midnight sky gave way to dawn

 Illness sprang in some locations         

Valuable men and innocents died

But others’ help and selfless actions

Their great value, can’t be denied


      When a plane was lost in flight

      We held our heads in hands and cried

      But when one was shot down in the night

                                     Even our faith in humanity died


Now a chapter’s due to end

We’re to open another page

Let us think not ‘foe’ but ‘friend’

We need the wisdom of a sage

The New Year sows a brand new seed     

A glimmer of hope, a peaceful dawn

But it’s down to thought and deed

Of every man, woman and child born


Let us not be sullen or sad                          

A new vision! New Hope! New Dawn!

The sun is shining, let’s be glad

As we greet the New Year’s morn

Happy New Year!

I wish all viewers a very Happy New Year - 2015! 


Friday, December 26, 2014

Creative Spot - New song by Mahendra (Speedy) Gonsalkorale

This is a lovely new song by Speedy. He himself has composed the music, written the lyrics, provided accompaniment on his Yamaha, rendered his own beautiful voice and recorded it with fitting visuals. I wonder whether it qualifies for the Guinness Book of Records! As you can see, it is a "Speedy" original and not a copy or imitation.

What versatility! What creativity!

The song is called "Your image is etched in my heart"

Please click on this link, sit back and enjoy!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Creative Spot - A poem by Mahendra (Speedy) Gonsalkorala

The brakes screech on
Sweat pours down
Halt the march now!
Uncertainty grips vow!
Confidence lost oh woe
Anxiety spreads head to toe

Dark clouds gather
The light gets dimmer
Heart thumps madly
Chest heaves rapidly
Fear grips me like a vice
Frozen stiff, a block of ice

Fear comes through ignorance
Fear the greatest hindrance
Fear curtails clear vision 
Fear leads to desolation
Fear clouds judgement
Fear, the supreme impediment

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Creative Spot - Mangala Mohotha by Zita Perera Subasinghe

The all time favourite "Mangala Mohotha", originally sung by Mignonne Fernando of The Jetliners. This is an instrumental done in typical Zita style. According to her, it is an old recording with new visuals. Enjoy!

 A photo of Zita's son Rohan and daughter-in-law Tanuja. It is not in the video.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Sriani Snippets - 8







Monday, December 1, 2014

Creative Spot - Ave Maria by Zita (Perera) Subasinghe

Music was done by Zita several years ago. But she had arranged the visuals a couple of days ago. I thought this would be a good way to start the month of December when Christians around the world will be celebrating Christmas.

If necessary, adjust the volume using the "mute" button at the bottom of the visual. Click on:

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sriani Snippets - 7

Upto a generation back, most Sri Lankans were very interested in the “Who’s Who” of everybody.  In the 40s and 50s, when the population of Colombo was one tenth of what it is today, the upper and middle classes of Colombo’s Society knew the genealogy of all the other families, and one had to just mention a name, and the person was immediately slotted in as being So and So’s, So and So. This habit is gradually dying out, and most of today's youth are not in the least bit interested in the”who’s who”of anybody, unlike their grandparents. 
My  mother at eighty one, is a good example of that dwindling minority that still wants to know the who’s who of every name mentioned to her, and she in turn cannot relate an incident without giving the ancestry and connections of all the people mentioned or connected with the incident. On most occasions I miss the crux of the matter, or what she is trying to tell me, for she has to only mention the name of one of the people involved in the incident, and off she goes at a tangent telling me who’s who that person was. By the time she has elaborated on that, the primary objective has been forgotten. 
One day she phoned and informed me that she had just returned from the Dentist’s, and I was concerned and interested to find out the nature of her dental problem. I never found out as to what took her there, for she began by telling me that she had been to a new Dentist, who she said was my sister-in-law’s, sister-in-law’s, sister’s husband!!! As my sister-in-law has eight brothers and sisters, it took quite some time to trace the dentist, and her enthusiasm in tracing this relationship overshadowed the dental problem that I was interested in, and the matter ended there. 
When she gets invited to a wedding, she cannot rest until she has gathered “who’s who” the other party is, and even when I get a wedding invitation, she just can’t understand why I do not display much interest in tracing the ancestry of the bride or groom.  Recently, on receiving the invitation to a nephew’s wedding, the first question predictably was “who’s who is the Bride”? I had to only say it was Barbara’s daughter, and the next question was “Barbara who”? “Is it Barbara X, Barbara Y or Barbara Z.”?  The computer in her brain ran through all the Barbaras programmed there, and she would  not rest until I sorted out the “correct” Barbara, who fortunately happened to be a friend of hers, for otherwise I would have had to trace Barbara’s family tree for some distant relative that she had heard of, so that her curiosity could be satisfied that she knew who’s who the bride was. 
Even today I find that often, when one is introduced to someone, the conversation does not flow smoothly until that person has asked a series of questions, and established who’s who you are. Nine times out of ten, when I have been introduced to someone , the first question invariably is “Are you anyone of  S… & V… Basnayake”? When I answer in the negative, they go through all the Basnayake’s they have heard of, and are never satisfied until I have been “slotted in”. It is only then that the conversation begins to flow. 
This brings to my mind an unforgettable incident that took  place inside a plane, at Singapore Airport. I had just boarded the flight back home, and sat down in an aisle seat, when a Sri Lankan gentlemen made his way towards my seat. I knew who he was, though he did not know me. He had been allocated the window seat in the same row, but before getting in, he stared hard at me, and carried on the following conversation while still standing by my seat, impeding the smooth flow of traffic down the aisle, and ignoring the pleas of the flight stewardess to kindly move into his seat.
Question - “ Are you R…..De Saram”?
Answer  -   “No”
Question - “Sure, you are not R…..? You look so much like her”
Answer -   “Sure.” (I felt flattered, and thought how insulted R…. would have been at this comparison)
Question -  “ Are you a De Saram”?
Answer -    “No.”
Question -  “Are you related to R..De S, even distantly”?
Answer -   “Very distantly”
His face lit up, and he tried probing a little further.
Question -  “How are you related”?
I was not quite sure myself, and gave him what is called in common parlance a “D-rope”. 
Question -    “What is your name”?
Answer -      “Sriani Basnayake”
Question -    “Then you must be related to S..…and V….”.?
Answer  -     “No” 
By this time the Chief Steward had been summoned, and Mr. Nosey Parker (hereafter referred to as NP) was politely but firmly ordered to occupy his window seat. A few seconds later the middle seat was also occupied by a gentleman [Mr. “X”], and I heaved a sigh of relief, and took up the in-flight magazine, glad to be rid of NP.  Five minutes had not gone by before NP leaned over Mr. “X” and wanted  to continue from where he left off. He then went through all the Basnayakes he had heard of, and since my answers were in mono syllables, he did not make much progress in getting on with establishing “who’s who” I was. 
By this time the plane had ascended to 35,000 ft, and Mr. “X” (through sheer exasperation I believe) asked us whether we wanted to change seats so that we could continue our interesting (ugh!) conversation. Mr. N.P. excitedly said “yes, thanks awfully” and undid his seat belt, and simultaneously I said a firm “No thank you” in such a tone, that Mr. “X” got the message, and stayed put. 
For the next half an hour I was questioned and cross questioned by Nosey Parker, as to my school, my job and various other facets of my life, in an attempt to establish my who’s who. At that point--alas-- Mr. “X” got up to go to the toilet, and NP leapt into the vacant seat so that he could continue his interrogation at a closer range. 
He then got a new lead, and asked me what my maiden name was. I replied “Dissanayaka”.
Question  -  “Dissanayakas from where”?
Answer  -    “Nugegoda”.
NP’s face lit up.
Question -   “Was your father in the Police”?
Though I was tired and irritated, I thought of that little game we used to play as children, where we hid something ,and the other person went round the room looking for it, and  when they came somewhere close to the hidden object, one said “warm-warm”, and if they got very close, you were supposed to shout “hot-hot”.
I nearly burst out laughing, for I wanted to say “hot hot”.       “Yes” I answered.
He only did not jump out of his seat. “Jingle or Jungle”.?
“Jingle”, I answered.  A look of utter relief swept over his face. “why didn’t you tell me all this time that you were Jingle’s daughter? My uncle was your Father’s Bestman, and  my parents knew your parents,and my so and so and so and so, and … a long list of relatives who were supposed to be good friends of ours.”      “ Yes, I knew it, I know that you are Mr. So & So” I said, with what I imagined was a  smug look on my face.
“You mean, you knew who I was all the time”?
“Yes” I said, and flew off to the toilet, leaving a stunned but satisfied Nosey Parker. It is unbelievable to what lengths a person will go just to know who’s who a fellow passenger happens to be. 
Even today, many Sri Lankans are concerned about the who’s who of people they meet, and what others may think about their own family connections. 
Recently, I heard a story about a politician who was all ruffled and angry that some person at a function had made an insinuation that he (the politician) was a nobody. He tried to explain the situation to a group of foreigners who were with him, and shouted “knowing people know, who we who we who !!!”
(“Danna minissu dannawa api kargay kauda kiyala”)
 Dr Sriani Basnayake  
(This article was published in the “Lanka Woman” in 1998)       

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Hamilton Bailey FRCS, FACS - Surgical Tutor par Excellence

By Nihal D Amerasekera

Hamilton Bailey

To medical students and doctors the name Hamilton Bailey is synonymous with  Surgery for his extraordinary contribution to surgical literature. His books Demonstrations in Clinical Surgery  and A Short Text Book of Surgery which he co-authored with McNeill Love became our text books.  They were  bench-books for surgeons during their training.  His book titled Emergency Surgery was greatly respected by practicing surgeons.  These books are still in print, updated and widely read. They still command worldwide sales. With such knowledge and expertise I assumed he lead a charmed life of luxury basking in his wealth and affluence. I thought he was an eminent consultant in a prestigious London teaching hospital with a lucrative Harley Street practice. I was proved wrong on both counts. 

For many years, in September, I have followed the swallows in their migration to southern Spain for the luxury of autumn sunshine. The Costa Del Sol is a paradise for sun-worshippers. I made my annual pilgrimage to a quiet corner away from the hordes that descend on this magical place. On one such occasion I visited the city of Malaga, the largest coastal city in Andalucia. It is a fascinating place with Moorish and Roman ruins and the Picasso Museum.  As I walked its pretty tree lined streets I came across an English Cemetery and decided to take a stroll along its well-heeled passages. As usual I read some of the tombstones as I passed by and amazingly came across the name of Hamilton Bailey. This aroused my curiosity and fascination to research his life to find out why he lay in a distant foreign field. 

Hamilton Bailey was born to Scottish parents in 1894. His father was a doctor and his mother, a nurse. She suffered from depression and drank heavily. His sister had schizophrenia and was in and out of mental institutions.  Thus his childhood wasn’t ideal.  Despite his difficulties he  entered the London Hospital Medical School at the age of 16 and qualified in 1916. While training in surgery at the London Hospital he developed an infection in one of his fingers which had to be amputated. This was the era before antibiotics. It was a tragedy for a budding surgeon. 

 In 1927 he published his first book Demonstrations in Clinical Surgery. A Short Text Book of Surgery soon followed in 1932.  His co-author was his friend and colleague McNeill Love.  His wife who was a photographer did the magnificent illustrations for his books. Meanwhile he made many unsuccessful applications for consultant posts in several hospitals.  In 1930 he finally got his break at the Royal Northern Hospital in Holloway, North London. It was not considered an elite London teaching hospital.  His reputation spread as a charismatic teacher and a fine lecturer. He was one of the first to organize a drill for cardiac arrest. Hamilton Bailey became a Hunterian Professor at the Royal College of Surgeons. 

With his large frame and self confidence he was demanding and domineering. Those who knew him have said he had few social graces, had no respect for authority and no rapport with patients or colleagues. It is a sad indictment for an elegant author and a superb lecturer with so many publications to enhance the profession. 

Tragedy struck his family when his only child died in a railway accident in 1943. His mental health suffered and his behaviour became erratic.  His temper was uncontrollable at times. In 1949 Hamilton Bailey gave up his surgical practice and sought psychiatric help.  He was sectioned and incarcerated for 3 years  and was unresponsive to treatment. When they were planning a prefrontal leucotomy  a young registrar suggested trying out a new drug.  He was started on Lithium.  Although he made a remarkable recovery he never worked in medicine again.  In 1951 he retired and bought a house in the hills near Fuengirola close to Malaga, in Spain, to enjoy its Mediterranean climate. There he continued to write and maintained contact with his surgical friends in England. 

While enjoying his retirement he developed signs of acute intestinal obstruction. He was rushed to the hospital in Malaga where he had an abdominal operation. Hamilton Bailey died in 1961, aged 66,  of septicaemia and peritonitis after surgery to remove a cancer of the colon. He was buried in the English cemetery in Malaga, Spain.  There are many doctors who visit the grave to pay homage to this brilliant teacher. They come not only from the UK but from all over the world. 

There can be few doctors of my generation who do not remember Hamilton Bailey gratefully. Unlike many consultants of his era he never chased money nor accumulated wealth for himself.  His erratic behavior and tantrums are perhaps due to his difficult childhood and mental illness.  I sincerely hope history will judge him kindly and remember his many contributions to surgery and his brilliance as a teacher and author.  He changed the face of surgical teaching in the 20th century.  

None of our lives are what it appears from the outside.  When I delve into the lives of famous people I realize amidst their success they too have their share of misfortunes and tragedies. There are many events in our lives that are beyond our control.  What amazes me most, in our lives, is the awesome force of destiny. 

I dedicate this short biography to my friend Bernard Randeniya  alias Claude Bernard . He was my constant companion all through Medical School and beyond. I have vivid memories of criss-crossing the long corridors of the General hospital Colombo with Bernard  looking for “good cases”. The agony and the ecstasy of exams, dancing and prancing, the music and the laughter of those years come easily to mind. He became a valued administrator in charge of the Cancer Institute in Maharagama.  Bernard had so much to offer society when his life was cut short.  Destiny was never kind to him. I will always remember him most fondly for his friendship, generosity and loyalty. His loud laughter still rings in my ears.  May his Soul Rest in Peace.

C’est la vie 

Lives of great men all remind us 
  We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us   
  Footprints on the sands of time; 

                                       - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 


Friday, November 28, 2014

Sriani Snippets - 6

To be or not to be……..

                   (what my daughter wants me to be)……that is the question. 

Should I be what I am, or what my dear daughter (hereafter referred to as DD) wants me to be? I wonder whether there are other mothers in this same situation?
From the time DD was a little girl, she thought that her mother was not a “proper mummy”, be it my size, mode of dress, my make-up, my abilities etc…etc…. Over the years it has given me so much joy and amusement listening to her persuasive pleas of trying to change her mother to fit her image of what a “proper mother” should be. She has since grown up and married, and mother has grown old and retired, but DD still continues her valiant efforts to “re-fashion” her ageing mother. 

When DD was a little girl, I had to pay numerous visits to her school to meet the Principal on official matters. On these occasions, when she returned home, her one plea would be, “Ma, please don’t come to school wearing a sari….. no other mother wears a sari…..can’t you wear a dress or slacks?” The fact that I dropped in at school on my way to work, or during my working hours, and that sari was my official attire, did not satisfy DD. 

Then came the criticism of my culinary skills. I used to put in considerable effort in making different types of sandwiches for DD to take to school for her morning snack. However, on most days she used to come back and inform me that she had eaten someone else’s sandwiches, and that they were “yummy”. I heard that A and B and C’s mothers made “yummy” food, and that her lunch was much below par. My only salvation was my cousin Shanthi, one of Sri Lanka’s foremost cookery experts, and she used to give me tips on new fillings, and how to “improve” on my sandwiches. With all this added effort, I still did not receive any compliments, until one day I happened to casually meet one of DD’s little friends, who said, “Aunty, Shari brings some “yummy” stuff to school, and we all tuck into it”. It made my day. The euphoria did not last long.

DD used to walk across the road from school to cousin Shanthi’s house to wait to be picked up and taken home. Often this happened to be just after one of Shanthi’s cookery classes, and DD used to sample the leftovers of the gourmet dishes turned out by Shanthi. Then, for the next few months it was “why can’t you learn to cook like Shanthi Akka…her food is simply out of this world.”  I fully endorsed these sentiments, but as to reaching Shanthi Casie Chetty’s standards was definitely out of the question. 

Next came constant criticism about my sewing skills, and my not being able to turn out dresses and costumes as when the demands were made. “Niro’s mother can sew a dress in one day, why can’t you?” I didn’t see the necessity of having to turn out a dress in one day, but after much coaxing; I was “sent” to a sewing class on Saturday afternoons, as all “proper mothers” knew how to sew their children’s clothes. I enjoyed my sewing classes conducted by my dear friend Barbara, but sad to say, I never graduated to producing instant outfits for DD.

After leaving school, DD spent the next decade teaching me the art of applying make-up, and trying to get me to shed the tons of fat built up over the years. When it came to her wedding, it was of paramount importance that Mother had to be knocked into shape, and boy, what an effort that was. First it was to a Beauty Salon. Where I was ‘measured’ and then had a rotating belt massaging the excess adipose tissue. In less than five minutes I had fainted, and had to be given first aid. Next it was “Dead Sea Mud”. Fantastic results initially, which made me a “presentable” mother of the bride. However, my penchant for sweet snacks “undid” the good work. 

Even after marriage DD did not give up her mission of “molding” her aging mother. I was constantly being reminded of the svelte figures, perfect skin textures and good looks of Aunty Swyrie,(our batch-mate Swyrie) Aunty Dhushy and other dear friends, and whenever she found me looking grubby and disheveled, she would say, “Why can’t you be like Aunty Swyrie? Do you ever see her with her hair looking like as if she has come through a cyclone?” Hard luck…few women can match up to Aunty Swyrie…. forget it. My accessories also don’t seem to match up to DD’s standards. I was told that my wristlet watch resembled one worn by Dubai-returned housemaids…(come to think of it, I did buy it at the Dubai Duty Free shop!) and why couldn’t I buy a Philippe Charriol like the one worn by Aunty Meropie. The fact that my timepiece serves only to check the pulse rate of people was not a convincing argument. In desperation she presented me with one of her discarded watches. 

Then there came the point in time when I had to contend with an additional critic, my dear Son-In-Law (SIL). SIL is very polite, and does not address his observations directly to me, but they get conveyed to me via DD. It appears that SIL is also concerned about my vital statistics and general appearance. As such, one day I was informed that SIL had been critical about the condition of my feet, which sent me flying for a pedicure. The result satisfied both DD and SIL…but only where my feet were concerned.

The next jolt I got was when I heard that SIL had remarked to DD that I now resembled a boat! Hubby tried to soften the blow by saying that there are boats and boats, and that he could have been referring to a rowing boat/ catamaran/ Dvora FAC or other “medium” sized boats, but I knew he was referring to something closer to the “Queen Mary” or the “Titanic”. Oh dear…when does one “let go” as Clare Senewiratne aptly wrote a few months ago. 

As a last resort I went to a famous Dietitian in Colombo, who gave me good advice and a diet sheet. The fat began to melt, and the needle on the weighing scale kept moving anti clockwise, and I was floating on cloud 9 for a few weeks…..till….till hubby decided to have ‘Tiffin’ every evening, and came home waving ├ęclairs and cream buns tantalizingly in my face. It was not fair, for he knows that I have no will power to resist a cream bun when it is held one inch from my mouth. Wallop it I did, and that was the end of the diet. 

Next came my birthday and DD had presented me with a birthday gift of an array of cosmetics, various types of eye make -up, anti-wrinkle creams and perfumes. . That evening, I made a great effort to apply all that ‘beauty stuff’ so lovingly given, hoping to be complimented on my ‘new look’ by my dear daughter. Imagine the shock I got when all she said was “Ma, what have you done to your face? You look like a Panda”!!! I read the other day that Pandas are becoming extinct, but not to worry, there is one big one still roaming around in Nugegoda! 

I give up……and let go. No more diets, no fancy make-up, no trying to compete with Dvoras. I will sail into the next world like the QE2.  I will be just myself, and my feelings are well described in a poem by an anonymous author, irreverently titled “ The 23rd Pound”. 

The 23rd Pound

My appetite is my shepherd, I always want.

It maketh me to sit down and stuff myself.

It leadeth me to my refrigerator repeatedly.

It leadeth me in the path of McDonalds for a Big Mac.

It destroyeth my shape.

Yea though I knoweth I gaineth,

I will not stop eating,

For the food tasteth so good.

The ice cream and cream buns, they comfort me.

When the table is spread before me, it exciteth me,

For I knoweth that soon I shall dig in.

As I filleth my plate continuously,

          My clothes runneth smaller.

Surely bulges and excess weight shall follow me

          all the days of my life,

And I will be fat forever. 

Dr Sriani Basnayake. 

(This was published in the “Lanka Woman” in the late 90s)