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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Reminiscences of Faculty Life

CoMSAA newsletter for April, 2014 has just been published. To read the full newsletter, please click on the following link.

CoMSAA News April 2014; Volume 3; Issue 2

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Memories of Kolonnawa in the late1950s

By Dr Nihal D Amerasekera

It was 1958, the year when our ethnic conflict first began. My father then worked for the local government. Like all servants of the state he lead a nomadic life being moved every 4 years what was then euphemistically called transfers. It is said that moving house is as stressful as having a divorce. It surprises me even now how we survived it all throughout his working life and emerged sane!! I can recall as if it were yesterday the move to Kolonnawa and the wave of excitement it generated.

The factory

Kolonnawa cannot boast of tall mountains  and green valleys but has an undulating landscape. Wellampitiya, being in a valley flooded with the monsoon rains. The government factory that occupied 15 acres of its valuable land gave it the look of an industrial town. Established in 1849 its tall chimneys bellowed thick black smoke 24 hours of the day. We could see the factory from our verandah and lived constantly under a cloud of pollutants. The factory had a tall fence around it and its business was steeped in secrecy. I thought it belonged to the Public Works Department. There was intense security at the gates as if it stored gold bars for the Central Bank.


As a town , in those days it did not have a good reputation. There was a general belief it was a place for thugs and violence. The Ceylon Turf Club murder and robbery was executed by criminals some of whom came from Kolonnawa and Wellampitiya. I wonder if this notoriety gave it a poor reputation. In my 3 years in the town I didn’t find it any worse than other towns. People were friendly and helpful and many of them were deeply religious too.

The school boarding

I was then at the boarding at Wesley College. Hostel life in those days was harsh being confined to the school grounds. The lack of freedom to a teenager was like being in prison. There was strict regimentation and all our actions were guided by the bell. The food was appalling. I enjoyed the mealtimes more than the meals. The many friends I made and the camaraderie made up for it all. Despite the hustle and bustle of life and the regimentation we had time to put our arms round our pals and share in their joys and sorrows. We shared our secrets and exchanged stories about our parents, brothers and sisters. There was a certain closeness which was rarely seen in friendships later on in life. We talked about our dreams and aspirations for the future and assumed we will always be friends. It fills my heart with sadness to think many of us will never meet again. It is a horrible reminder of your own mortality when you read or hear of the death of boarders who played, laughed, sang and fought with us all those years ago. For me they will always remain fifteen, healthy and smiling. It is hard to believe they will not be playing those elegant cover drives ever again. Memories of life in the boarding can fill a book. I was lucky to belong to a generation inspired contemporaneously by great teachers and principals. They gave us lofty ideas, great inspiration, self respect , firm discipline and  anchorage. Despite its rigours it was a sublime experience. I joined the boarding as a child and left as an adult. I left with mixed feelings. Sad to leave my friends with whom I shared six long years but glad to regain my independence and some good food of my own choice. My new home was to be just 2 miles away from the school.

The house

We settled in at number 3 Gunatilleke Road which was an old house renovated to give a new look. The owner was Walter Gunatilleke, a kindly man working for the Water Board. His brother Newton lived in the sprawling house next door. The lane was a gravel path that ended on our doorstep. At the edge of the property was a tall perimeter fence of the Kolonnawa Oil Installation. For the next 3 years we lived next to this time bomb which could ignite any minute with devastating consequences. In those days we believed the Crown was always right and worked for the benefit of the people. We live in a more cynical society now.

The house was rather small but adequate for our small family. It had a rather low roof and the kitchen did not have a chimney. When food was being prepared smoke filled the house which was not pleasant. There was a little thicket behind our house which attracted centipedes, scorpions, large spider and even snakes. We were always on the lookout for these uninvited guests. We complained little in those days and took the good with the bad with amazing grace.


The start of Gunatilleke Road was by the Kolonnawa cemetery. We saw the cremations and burials on a daily basis. The lamps burnt by the graveside late into the night. At first I was terrified to walk home after dark. The slightest rustle made me take to my heels On occasions I have run the full length of the road to the amusement of some onlookers. Attending the many functions at school I had no choice.. After months of practice I got used to it and felt less threatened. Never did I see anything to alarm me in all those years.


Terence De Zylva was then a prominenet citizen of the town. He was a left wing politician and had great support at Kolonnawa where he was involved in Local Government politics. He was a Councillor for the Kolonnawa Urban Council for many years. There he is remembered as a philanthropist for starting a school in Kolonnawa for the local children, now called the Terrence de Zylva School. The clever children of that school gained a place at Wesley with his support and I recall one such student who entered the Medical College Colombo and is now a General Practitioner in London. He is more famous for his part in the “Suriyamal Campaign” during the heady days of the LSSP.


By the perimeter fence was a row of tenements. I particularly remember one family who lived there and contributed to the background noise of the place. They used language which would make a sailor blush. Having lead a sheltered life thus far with a conservative background I often looked for a place to hide my face. The old man did little work but found money for his drinks at night. Their daughter was a buxom young woman with many husbands some as temporary as a few hours. She had a string of children. The lass thought she had a voice like Rukmani Devi singing her songs an octave lower avoiding the high notes while having a bath at the well.  This ritual occurred just outside my bedroom window and gave me an earache every night. It was more like a bird singing for a mate. They were a law unto themselves and formed the social underclass who contributed little to society. The tenement community helped each other in times of need despite their constant quarrels and arguments. I realise now some spoilt rich people have questionable morals too. 


Walter Gunatilleke had 2 sons Nihal and Sarath. They were both Anandians  and some years younger to me but were keen cricketers.  The straight gravel road which was free from through traffic was an ideal cricket pitch. We played every evening and occasionally Walter and Newton joined in too. They were ultra competitive to give me attacks of migraine. During the school cricket season they took me to see the Ananda Matches. I think cricket kept us out of mischief but I had important public examinations and occasionally had to hide away in by study. I have lost contact with Nihal but was deeply saddened to hear Sarath died many years ago leaving a young wife. Despite the passage of years I still dream of those cricket matches on the dirt track. Although surrounded by houses never did we break a window in all those years.


I recall my visits to the Kolonnawa temple with school friends. It had a large compound. The tall trees with the leaves rustling in the wind gave it an austere feel away from the cacophonous traffic outside. It was a place of vitality and dignity. The Kolonnawa Urban council was an impressive building with a beautifully manicured lawn with colourful flowers. The main street through the town was narrow and always busy. I remember the tangled mass of telephone wires and electricity cables lining the street full of potholes from the recent rains. Cattle and traffic competed for space.

Often I prayed for rain when my father took me by car to school. At times my neighbour gave me a lift or I took the CTB which was overflowing with people. Often I walked back from school and on looking back  wonder how I did it day after day returning for a game of cricket and a long study well into the night.


Time passed quickly. Soon I was sitting for the all important University Entrance examination. All my time was spent  preparing for this. The examination came and went like a bolt of lightening. Soon after this my father was again transferred this time to Weligama. When the results were posted we were a 100 miles away from Colombo between Galle and Matara. I had given instructions to the post master at Kolonnawa to forward my letters but it never arrived. All my friends were celebrating when I was thoroughly dejected. In a couple of days I had recovered enough to collect my books again for another assault. I had by then left school and went to see the teachers when they congratulated me for my success. The Post Master has forgotten to forward my letter.

I will always remember Kolonnawa for the success I had with my examinations. Entering the university is indeed a meal ticket for life but not a passport to happiness. The latter is a hand dealt by destiny of which we have no control. I have had my misfortunes but have had lady luck on my side most of the way. 

Memory is a wonderful gift unaffected by the storms and upheavals of the present. We are a product of our past. It is now more than  50 years since my time at Kolonnawa. I had to clear the cobwebs of my mind to see through into the distance. I look back on my life with my parents with much nostalgia. What I am now is mostly due to their dedication to their parental duties for which I feel immense gratitude. My parents generation now have mostly slipped away. As life  has moved on I often hark back to the lost world of probity, unselfishness and old fashioned courtesy which  the sex drugs and rock and roll culture of the swinging 60’s took away from us. Sadly bombs and bullets became the symbol of our new age. 

I dedicate these memoirs to the Gunatilleke family who were our landlord and neighbour at Kolonnawa. They were kind, considerate and always helpful but kept a distance without smothering us. May they who have now departed this world attain the ultimate bliss of Nirvana.

I never had the opportunity to visit Kolonnawa again.

Ah ! those were the days and how time flies.



Sunday, April 20, 2014

Batch Reunion in 1992 held at Windsor Holiday Inn in England

Dear Lucky,

I came across some pictures I had taken of our Batch Reunion in 1992 held at Windsor Holiday Inn in England. I thought it will be of interest to the batch, There are few who are no longer here with us including Tudor, Cigar Jayanetti and BL Perera in some of the pictures. I have also included the cover of the beautifully prepared Programme with the Silver and Black colour scheme by Con Bala.
The Academic Programme included the usual scientific programme with many of our batch as speakers and famed  International speakers such as Prof Raymond Tallis,Prof Poole Wilson,Prof Oliver Russel.It was followed by a Dinner Dance with the band Black Velvet & Colombo 4 in attendance. We  crowned the "European Queen" and if I remember right it was Swyree. The festivities that followed the event included a Mediterranean Cruise organised by Con Bala. In those days, we had no difficulty in getting sponsorship from Pharmaceutical Companies and there were 26 companies and 4 Medical Insurance companies doing the honours.
I have attached pics in JPEG format and I hope they come through reasonably well.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Memories  of internship at Kurunegala 1967/68

Dr. Nihal D Amerasekera

Entrance to the GH Kurunegala


With the publication of the results of the final MBBS the vast dispersal of graduates began. The euphoria of the MBBS with all its trappings of fame and fortune was only dampened by the stress of the internship. Interns were at the bottom of the pile overworked and underpaid (Rs 475.00 per month). Although this was an extension of our apprenticeship we were now to practice the trade we had learnt for five years. After a sheltered existence so far we had to learn to be streetwise dealing with the public. To retain ones’ good humour and common sense was vital. Ready or not we had to start practicing medicine in the real world.

For those of us whose local geography has been a casualty of the permissive sixties, Kurunegala is a sleepy town at the edge of the dry zone on the way to Anuradhapura. Most years the monsoons deserted the town and the clouds flew passed ignoring its parched landscape. The elephant rock stands majestically in the middle of town. During the day the sun beats on it mercilessly and in the night it dissipates its heat keeping the town oven hot 24 hours of the day. The 400-bed hospital is built in a coconut estate. In-patient numbers far exceeded the number of beds.

It was an oppressively hot day in July in 1967.  I remember as if it were yesterday walking up a narrow street by the hospital into the House Officer’s quarters. This typical government quarters painted a drab yellow was to be my home for a year. There were 4 shared rooms 2 in each. Armed only with a suitcase and a sagging confidence I took up my task seriously. The caretaker was an elderly man who had severe asthma. No one knew his real name but we called him Rhonchi Rajapakse. His cooking left a lot to be desired and reminded me of the chemistry book description of oxygen - tasteless, colourless and odourless. He had a young side kick who did the washing and cleaning. We took turns to be the “BUTH MASTER” taking charge of the finances for the month to provide delicious food at a reasonable price.

The hospital was managed by the Medical Superintendent Dr.Bertie Wijeratne, a kindly gentleman who had to serve the masses and balance the books. Interfering politicians and local unions were the bane of his life. He juggled his many impossible tasks admirably and with a smile. The Kurunegala hospital served a wide area extending from Galgamuwa and Dambulla in the north to Anamaduwa and Nikaweratiya in the west; Alawwa and Polgahawela in the south and Galagedera and Kandy in the east. The west and north being in the dry zone, the people’s lives depended much on the rainfall. They were mostly poor and humble but had vitriolic and volcanic tempers towards their own. This often resulted in stabbings and shootings for mundane trivial issues. They would kill for a dispute about a jak fruit. Those from the south and east were relatively affluent and knew their rights but were rather placid.

GH Kurunegala – A view from the south side

My first appointment was in paediatrics with Dr Chandra de S Wijesundera. I couldn’t have wished for a kinder boss. He was dignified, generous and occasionally  invited us for dinner at his house. (I had spoken with Dr Wijesundera on many occasions when he visited the UK but we never had the good fortune to meet.) I had H.N. Wickramasinghe, lovely Priya Guneratne and Adikaram as the co-workers. “Adi” emigrated to the UK and became a paediatrician working in the Middle East. He sadly passed away after a battle with myelofibrosis. H.N has always been a great comrade and colleague and is a successful GP in Hanwella. He was tremendous company and I have had many evenings drinking together in the privacy of the Kurunegala Rest House. Priya was a kind person and exceptionally helpful holding fort for us when we were oncall and drunk beyond repair. She remained in Sri Lanka to serve its people. (It was a great pleasure to see Priya in September 2012 at the Cinnamon Grand. She invited me for tea with “Pattas” but sadly I had a prior appointment to keep.)  Sanath de Tissera joined paediatrics when I was 3 months into my rotation. We continued our friendship which began in Medical College. In Paediatrics in Kurunegala, diphtheria and gastro-enteritis were the killers, both of which were so easily preventable. It is said a family never recovers from the death of a child. I still recall the deep distress and the wailing in the ward after a death.

Thanks to our teachers we have had a good all round training. The art of breaking bad news and counselling the bereaved were sadly lacking from our repertoire. We learnt these on the job. I recall one day when a seriously ill child of 2 years was brought to the children’s ward. I diagnosed diphtheria and gave the appropriate treatment. Within 30 minutes the child was in great distress with breathing difficulty. I called the surgeon who came promptly and when the child was taken to the theatre for emergency surgery went pale and died of asphyxia. It is a well known complication of the condition. This tragedy has remained in my memory ever since.

Sirima Subesinghe (wife of our immediate senior batch Disampathy Subesinghe) was in charge of the rota. She was firm but fair and provided great help to many young “green” doctors who arrived in Kurunegala. (Sirima sadly passed away in Leeds after cardiac surgery). We were on ‘call’ once every 3 days and once in 3 weekends. The calls were busy and a good night’s rest was a luxury we never knew.  The calls at night were brought to us by a labourer on a bike. He knocked on our door saying” Sir, Call ekak”  After the initial foul language we got dressed to attend to the problem. When not on call, the evenings were spent playing badminton with a drink before dinner. The H.O ‘s Quarters was a magnate for the young Government Servants like the dentists, Veterinary surgeons and Tax consultants who drifted in our direction for badminton and refreshments. We immersed ourselves fully in the pleasures of youth.

The Visiting Surgeons and Physicians kept their distance and rarely mixed with the junior doctors. I believe channelling, tunnelling and funnelling private patients kept them preoccupied. One who mixed with us regularly was Dr.Upali Ratnayake. He sadly died of a cerebral haemorrhage in his prime at the age of 48.

The doctors were the elite in town and were recognized and respected. The shops gave us special discounts and the local cinema flashed our names on the screen to say we were urgently needed in hospital ‘to save a life’. The doctors were automatically made members of the Upper Club. It was an exclusive social club in Kurunegala where the upper crust congregated. Every weekend was a party in the quarters or in town and the booze flowed freely. Sing-songs were an integral part of the fun. The general public and the local police waived off our youthful indiscretions.

All telephone calls to and from the hospital had to go through the hospital exchange. Some of the guys manning the exchange were arrogant and unhelpful. Calls to Colombo were trunk calls and we depended on the kindness and generosity of the operators. To my recollection even for the 1960’s the telephone service was poor.

It seemed the flushing toilets had not reached the dry zone yet. The quarters had bucket latrines and the daily ablutions were a tricky business. Those at the back of the queue in the morning had to endure the worst. Sirry Cassim now a senior Ophthalmic Surgeon in Colombo, had his own answer to the problem. He had a generous stock of Bulgarian cigars (Bulgarian bog punt) which produced acrid fumes to counteract the other nasty odours. The non-smokers had to make a quick exit cyanosed and blue poisoned by the fumes and driven by the stench.

There were many colourful characters living in the H.O’s Quarters. Pathology Registrar Rajasekeran alias Kapoor was an honourable senior who had been there for 6 years. He had a moustache like the  Hindi film idol of the 1950’s Raj Kapoor. He orchestrated the ‘misdemeanours’, arbitrated the disputes and collected the funds for the daily consumption of booze. Kapoor became a Consultant Chemical Pathologist at Bedford Hospital, UK. I met him from time to time until he retired. He was much subdued then. Our batchmate Rajasooriyar was our resident hermit. Being a teetotaller, he cared for the sick and suffering doctors (from recurrent hangovers) and provided the aspirin. Rajasooriyar  qualified as an anaesthetist and worked in the North of England where I tracked him down some years ago. He still effuses kindness and speaks softly and deliberately, just as he did all those years ago.

The young Kurunegala damsels as they went past the house were greeted cordially. After dusk the girls saw more of us. Many of the girls blushed and hurried past but a few retaliated with some choice language. We spent many happy evenings drinking and chatting putting the world to right. With our raging hormones many of the topics had a sexual connotation. There was a strong and healthy relationship with the nursing staff who were invited for our fun evenings. For some love blossomed. For others it was just a one night stand. The house officers quarters were a honey pot for marriage brokers who came from far and wide on fact-finding missions. Big bucks were mentioned and “fit-ons” were arranged. Deals were done in a backroom. Those who volunteered information (our servants) were on our payroll and the routine was well rehearsed.

On weekends we made trips to Kandy, Anuradhapura, Sigiriya, Dambulla and Puttalam which were a striking distance away. Once we went to Sigiriya and Sirry took his gun with him and shot a wild duck. Rhonchi Rajapakse cooked it for us. We still may have lead shots lodged in our appendices to remind us of those happy times of our internship.

The Law-Medical cricket match was the highlight of the year held in the Kurunegala Town Hall. It was similar to what we had in Medical College Colombo, a fun filled programme with a concert ending with a dinner and dance. The funds for the event were collected from the hospital Consultants and the Private Practitioners who, to our eyes, had tremendous wealth. The drinking began at midday and some of us forgot the lines being completely ‘stoned’ during the show. Those acting as angels could hardly stand. Few could remember how it all started but none could recall its end. Many had total amnesia for the whole event start to finish.

The second appointment was surgery with Dr. N. Rasiah.  He had a certain a magnetism and charm and took life and his work easy. (He is now living in retirement in Australia). Dynamic and mercurial  Tudor Wickramaratchie was my colleague. Tudor loved the good life and held his drinks well. His sense of humour and his interesting and provocative ideas made him a joy to work with. Tudor emigrated to the UK and became a Pathologist in Bristol. He passed away in the Golf Course playing the game he loved. The Surgical training was a strenuous six months with many knife injuries. During this period I had to deal with 4 murder cases which were committed to trial in the Supreme Court. Once a woman was brought with a vaginal prolapse bitten by a dog, while she was asleep. The husband had more sympathy for the dog than his dear wife.

Mist Sodi Sal and Carminative formed the bedrock of our treatment. Aspirin tablets were given out like Smarties. Once whilst returning for lunch there was an almighty commotion by the gynae ward. A man in national dress was shaking his fist unable to contain his anger and one of my doctor colleagues was calmly explaining to no avail. It transpired the man was accusing the houseman of stitching the episiotomy too tight. The doctor finally asked the man to mind his own business, which left him rather speechless.

Time moved on swiftly and relentlessly. The colleagues who shared our house had become a close knit family. Despite the hard toil it is the good times that often come to mind. At the end of internship I distinctly remember the sadness I felt saying goodbye, many of whom I never saw again.

Some of us took the advice of Rudyard Kipling “Go West young man”. As Sri Lankan politics was in turmoil and our coffers were empty life for the middle classes became intolerable. There was a mass exodus of doctors to the USA and UK in 1968. I was to remain in Sri Lanka for a further 7 years. My future was decided by politicians in head office and depended on whom I knew and not on my ability. My career development was at a standstill when I decided to join the rest of the herd for greener pastures abroad. Although I had agonised about it I never realised the enormity of that decision. My youthful exuberance protected me from the fear of reality.

I dedicate these memoirs firstly to the many doctors who have walked the long corridors of the General Hospital Kurunegala. Secondly to the simple, kind and generous rural folk of the Vanni who had implicit faith in our powers of healing. Thirdly to the nurses who taught us practical medicine and provided warmth and comfort during those difficult times. I must thank our teachers at Medical College and the Consultants at GHC who taught us the basics so well.

I remember with deep affection all those who shared our lives together and are no more. May they find Eternal Peace.

Senior Hospital Staff - 1967/68

SHS – Dr Kulasiri/Dr Oliver Fernando  MS- Dr Bertie Wijeratne  MO in Charge OPD – Dr Sabapathy

Blood Bank M.O – Dr Aloysius De Silva

Physicians- Dr Parakrama Weerasekera and Dr Miloo Visuvaratnam

Surgeons:  Dr Arumugam and Dr N Rasiah

Anaesthetists: Dr Dharmarajah and Dr Dexter ……

Obstericians: Dr Andrew Perera and Dr Upali Ratnayake

ENT Surgeon: Dr Ana de Soysa  Eye Surgeon Dr Miss Muthukumarana

Paediatrician: Dr C de S Wijesundera

Radiologist : Dr ‘Poosa’ Jayawardene

Medical Officer in Charge of TB Services: Dr John Douglas Seneviratne

I am now living far away from my beloved country and Kurunegala. All that is left is a storehouse of wonderful memories of times gone. Yet in an odd twist of homesickness, what I miss mostly are the people and places I knew in my youth.

 (This is a modified version of an article by the same author that was published in the Sunday Island many  years ago)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The man with nothing who had everything

This man, in hospital for a test
Was the happiest man I ever met
Never without a smile on his face
Never complained, just full of praise

Curiosity got me, I confess
What secret did he possess
What is the formula
Of this amazing fella
I just had to know now
I decided to ask him how

Your secret Sir, tell me please
Thus he told me, completely at ease

I have no house
I have no money
I have no job
I have no wife
I have no children
I have no possessions
I have no anger
I have no fear
I have no hate
I have no worries
I am alone

I have time to think
I have time for Nature
I have time to talk
I have time to care
I have nothing to lose
Death doesn't worry me
Life doesn't worry me.
I have Peace of mind
I am happy
I am content
That Sir, is my secret 
Sent in by Mahendra (Speedy) Gonsalkorala

Monday, April 7, 2014

Kurunegala Interns 1967

An Important e-mail from Priya.
Dear Lucky,
Discovered a photo (not too good) of the interns at GH Kurunegala in 1967/1968. Many of our batch mates are in it -

Seated - from L-R - ?Lakshmi Balachandran, 3rd me (Priya Gunaratna), Yankee Bala, HN Wickremasinghe, Rajasooriar, 8th Cassim, & last Manel Hettiarachchi.

Standing from L - R  - 5th - ND Amarasekera, Sanath Tissera, ?Sarvanandan, ? & 10th Rasanayagam
Sorry  I can't remember some names.

Most of us interns were housed in two adjoining, smallish bungalows whilst some others including Cassa & HN were in another large and oldish bungalow known as the "Naaki Quarters". We would be often warned of a brewing rumpus at this "NK" by Banda, our cook cum house keeper and brace our selves for a sleepless night. On these occasions branches of trees would be stuffed in through grills above our room windows amidst much shouting and singing whilst the crockery which had been forgotten to be locked up, were found smashed to smithereens the next morning. One night I discovered my housecoat which had been extricated through the window grill flying atop the flag pole of the "Naaki Qarters".
I remember the many times my co workers at the "NQ" drive past our humble abode shouting commands to me to cover up for them?.
Many a day when the taps ran dry, these "naaki inmates" would go on strike, stand outside their quarters with their sarongs tucked up and toothbrushes hanging from their mouths.
We, Doctors were much respected by the residents of Kurunegala and our presence much sought after at  their homes and at outings.
The blood bank was situated across the main Colombo Road and what ever time of night, we had to hurry across this to match blood for transfusions, only to be trailed far behind by the ward attendant carrying the bag to transport it.
There was an MO/OPD who would indiscriminately stamp all cases at night as "HO to see stat", which made us poor interns scurry to exchange these on call dates.
Sanath, HN and ND were my co-workers under Dr Chandra Wijesundera, Consultant Paediatrician (who later married our batch mate Manel Ratnavibushana also known as Owlie) and under Dr J Herat, Consultant Gynecologist. When it came to our convocation, I who was honest and declared I was not attending it had to hold the fort as these folks obtained duty leave to attend it, but never did.
All these seem from a distant past and at times I wonder if they are figments of my imagination. However it may be, the internship days at Kurunegala bring a smile upon my face and a warm feeling around my heart. I am sure Cassa and HN would agree.

With some help from ND, I was able to get a jpg copy of the photo to be uploaded to the blog. He had also provided a few more names. With all that, it's still incomplete. I guess it's left to me to see if I can identify the rest. But let me remind you that I never worked in Kurunegala and I know that there a few Peradeniya graduates in the group whom I don't know.
ND's e-mail is as follows:

Hi Lucky
Done the change into Jpeg
I remembered a few more names.

Seated - from L-R - ?Lakshmi Balachandran, 3rd me (Priya Gunaratna), Yankee Bala, HN Wickremasinghe, Rajasooriar, 8th Cassim, & last Manel Hettiarachchi.
Standing from L - R  ??, Langanarayanan, ???, Batuwangala,  ND Amarasekera, Sanath Tissera, LPJM Wickramasinghe,  Sarvanandan, Galhenage,  Rasanayagam, Lionel Samarasinghe, Adikaram, WS Ratnayake, Subramaniam

Click on photo to enlarge
 Seated left to right: Indrani Subramaniam (Yankee Bala's sister), Lakshmi Balachandran (according to Priya and ND), Priya Gunaratne, S. Balachandra (Yankee Bala), HN Wickramasinghe, W. Rajasooriyar, Joseph, , MHS Cassim, UNIDENTIFIED, UNIDENTIFIED, Manel Hettiarachchi,

Standing left to right: UNIDENTIFIED, G. Langaniarayanan (I remember him from the 6 months course), ?Sisira Ranasinghe (was he in Kurunegala?), Batuwangala, ND Amerasekera, Sanath de Tissera, LPJM Wickramasinghe, S. Sarvananda, Siri Galhenage, M. Rasanathan, Lionel Samarasinghe, Adikaram, WS Ratnayake, ?Kumar Gunawardene (was he is Kurunegala?) or Subramaniam

Sunday, April 6, 2014

In Retrospect

In Retrospect

by Dr. Nihal D. Amerasekera

I recall most vividly the day I left Sri Lanka in 1974. The grey clouds mirrored my thoughts and mood. I waved goodbye to my family and boarded the Swissair DC10. Through its oval window I watched my homeland and its lush green palm trees disappear into the horizon. At the time it never crossed my mind I would be in exile for the rest of my working life.

I have now lived most of my adult life in England. Carving a career and raising a family has consumed my time for three decades. The trials and tribulations and also the happiness and fulfillment of those years abroad have enriched my life beyond measure. Now the children have left the nest leaving me with time on my hands. The desire for a soft life and pleasant experiences fill my thoughts. Still despite the years my childhood memories make me crave for the peaceful Sri Lanka I left behind.

Until late into the 1970’s Wilpattu and Yala were virgin forests. Herds of elephants and many leopards roamed freely. Only dirt tracks marked its green and forbidding landscape. There were a handful of bungalows to serve the few visitors. Road from Puttalam to Anuradhapura had nothing but jungle on either side. Wild animals often crossed the road. This drive alone often took my breath away for its lonely desolate setting. Tourism brings us the much needed foreign currency. The infrastructure needed for tourism destroys the village life that has existed for many centuries. Change we must for progress but it is hard to bear for those who have seen an idyllic world disappear.


Sri Lankans have been known for their friendliness and hospitality even before the days of Robert Knox. They are peace loving and easy going. Modern living has changed all that. Time means money and no one seems to have time for anybody else but their own family. In the cities many work late into the evening and also at weekends. When not in the office parental duties fill their time. Friendliness and hospitality is an inevitable casualty of this hectic lifestyle. Sri Lankans have now adopted the western culture which would have been previously described as selfish and egocentric. "No money no talk" is the slogan. That’s the cost of progress we must accept. The real Sri Lankan ethos surfaced during the recent tsunami when the selfless sacrifice of the many thousands touched the world. The tsunami broke the back of a country trying to rebuild after a long and bloody war.

The war changed many of our precious values. Killing soldiers and civilians became a daily occurrence and the people became immune to its horrors. We learnt to accept the loss of life with a shrug. The war created a mass of young people trained to kill and maim. The respect we had for fellow humans became a casualty of a futile war. This evil generates its own momentum and even after the ceasefire continues to cause us grief. Lawlessness and contract killings are an offshoot of war. It would take a generation of peace in our land to change the inbuilt hatred which has festered for so long. The ordinary folk from both sides of the divide have shown a weariness of the conflict and 9/11 marked a turning point. At last the killing is at an end.

I grew up in the fifties when the children were seen and not heard. Discipline was of paramount importance. We listened to our elders with respect. Meanwhile the west was changing rapidly into a permissive society. Birth control pills freed the women from the fear of pregnancy. They also maligned tradition, discipline, old age and conformity. Men and women living together out of wedlock and having children became acceptable. Religion which was the backbone of their society became less important and got pushed aside. Worst of all is the abuse of drugs by our youth with its enormous social problems and also the curse of AIDS and child abuse. These diseases and hideous attributes have come to settle in our tiny island paradise.

While I was away there have also been many changes for the better. Even in poor homes and in the villages radio and television have become an important source of entertainment. It is a tremendous store of knowledge and information. The worldwide web is a double edged sword. It brings enormous benefits for the majority. Affluence has reached even the remote parts of the country although still much needs to be done. Health care is still free and those who can afford can have the best available anywhere in the world. Every Sri Lankan is now aware of the value of a good education which is also free. Schools are seen even in the remote places. Quite rightly even the poor students have access to university education and to a professional life. I realize we are still not perfect but for a developing country our achievements are commendable. The country can be pleased of this success despite the horrors of a war which ravaged the country.

Free Press

Let us not forget the harshness of British rule in Ceylon. We were right to fight for independence and seek our own destiny. However the British left us rich and without debt. There was a free press and an independent judiciary. Law an order was our pride. We had an excellent infrastructure to build on. Our intelligentsia could compete with the best in the world. Nepotism bribery and corruption were serious offences and dealt with severely. We seem to have squandered the basics of good governance we inherited from our colonial rulers. The blame lies squarely on the successive governments since independence.

There was a post-independence backlash. Everything foreign was despised and a wave of ultra-nationalism swept the island. Sadly such vile sentiments became vote winners. Goodwill and trust that was built between the various ethnic groups over many centuries went up in smoke in a matter of weeks. With the wisdom of hindsight I wish the politicians of the time were able to lead us into a period of racial harmony. Their careless rhetoric and remarks did not help to diffuse the ugly situation. It has taken much courage to reach the peace we enjoy now. We have been through war, assassinations, an attempted coup d’etat and two insurgencies but to the credit of our politicians democracy has survived.

The sixties saw drastic import restrictions. Foreign goods were luxury items banned by the government. The lack of new cars gave us empty streets and this encouraged the government to improve public transport. It was a pleasure to drive around in Colombo. Living in the city or its suburbs was relaxing and peaceful. Now the city is one big traffic jam at all hours. Its fumes continue to pollute and poison us. The noise of it all is unbearable. There is hardly any green space to provide some refuge for the weary. Buildings have emerged willy nilly without any respect for the law. Money seems to justify it all.

The years at Wesley College were full of innocent fun. Discipline and learning went hand in hand. The dedication of the teachers helped us enormously to fulfill our dreams. Now sadly teaching is just a job and with it has gone the respect the profession enjoyed. I still revere my teachers and often think of them and their tremendous contribution to society. They had a genuine concern for student welfare. The parents did not interfere at school unlike now. The parents must take some of the blame for the indiscipline in schools. This is sadly a problem worldwide.

Storms at school

As I take a walk through Wesley I miss the open space, the gardens and trees. They were our refuge from the inevitable storms at school. They have given way to buildings. The playground at the back of the school which was an arena for budding cricketers and soccer players is now converted to bricks and mortar. Whether it was greed or necessity it is indeed a tragedy. We have sold our family silver!!

Medical College was great fun too. The visiting physicians and surgeons in Colombo in the 1960’s were great teachers. They loved their private practice but never neglected their duties towards the students. Many were egocentric and difficult personalities but their clinical judgment and dedication to patient care amazes me still. I cannot comment on the teaching now but they still turn out good doctors. With the glasnost and openness that exists now I cannot believe the present day medical students enjoy the strenuous course as much as we did. Every move of every person is now scrutinized with a fine tooth comb and indiscretions become headline news. The antics of the Law Medical match, Block concert and the Dance as it was then would not survive the scissors of the current censors and the wrath of the Faculty Dons. I would give my right arm to be a bohemian medical student of the sixties once again.

I spent seven sublime years working as a doctor in Sri Lanka. It was during this sojourn I developed my love for the people of the Vanni. Their volatile tempers and vitriolic comments matched the harsh unforgiving terrain they called home. Despite this they had hearts of gold and gave of their best to those whom they respected. These simple rural folk epitomized village life in the 1960’s. Their boundless generosity has often left me speechless. People expected little from life and were grateful for small mercies. They had implicit faith in my ability to heal, a confidence which was somewhat misplaced. I look forward to a time when I could once again visit my beloved Vanni and its remarkable people. Nikeweratiya tank with its blue waters and the distant hills haunts and beckons me still.

Living abroad I was immune to the constant criticisms and the relentless gossip of relatives and "well wishers". Even if they did, I didn’t hear them. This I believe is a bonus for a non conformist like me. I missed my close knit family enormously. I was not able to take an active part in the births, marriages and deaths that occurred within my family in all these years. As a result a new generation has emerged whom I do not know. Many of the older generation have left this world in my absence. I was not able to say goodbye to those whom I loved and respected. I am a stranger now in SL to many. Above all my inability to spend the final days with my father will remain with me a matter of great regret. I take comfort that I have my mother’s love always despite the vast oceans that separate us.


We are on the crest of a wave in international cricket. In my youth we were the punch bag and didn’t fare too well with the visiting international teams. If we could draw a match in those days it was a great delight. As I watch Sri Lankan matches in England the years melt away and my youth returns to support my motherland in the way I was used to during my schooldays. Our teams have done us proud and winning the World Cup was our finest hour. We must accept we can’t win ‘em all.

Although the years have been kind to me I have changed vastly too. Living and working abroad must transform ones psyche. Physically I have lost much of my hair and what is left needs a regular polish. Lines and furrows cross my face and dark shadows surround my eyes. Time has stolen my youth but I look back with much gratitude for the golden years I enjoyed in mother Lanka and later in the UK.

I dedicate these notes to my teachers at Wesley College. Mr. Fred Abeysekera taught me English and helped me appreciate the poetry of Wordsworth, Longfellow and Coleridge. We were inspired by his dedication and sincerity. I wish him a long and happy retirement.


Saturday, April 5, 2014


This topic was invented by Mahendra (Speedy) Gonsalkorala when he was a Final Year Medical Student, developed further during his Internship and now embellished with some new ideas. This I thought is a good way to resume activity following a short lull when I was on holiday in the US. As I have pointed out before, this blog is primarily for 1962 Entrants to the Colombo Medical Faculty. Needless to say, this lot is quite used to the nature of the contents, and I am sure it will give readers a good laugh!

Sir Dick Hard
Lord P.NissankaPeriyalingam
Lady Gloria Lay B Ellis 

Forthcoming Lectures: All these to be held at the College and dates to be announced.
Peno-vaginal disproportion
Deep Penile Arrest
Morning Stiffness
Failure of unipolar bibolar organs in the Community.
Reconstructive surgery for podipolarbitholar organs in Africa
Unusual presentations including oral, aural and anal variations
Failure to prolong labour as a common cause of marital disharmony.
Post-coital depression
The Importance of controlled voyeurism in impotence therapy
Rare case of Multiple Pelvic fractures caused by coital hyperexpression
The “Morrison- Rutherford” Lecture to be delivered by Sir Dick Hard on “Activation of flaccidity”
Use of Polyunsaturated margarine as a lubricant; A double blind controlled trial.
Instant Work-ups: Outstanding tips to promote stiffness.
Premature ejaculation: Recent Advances in Management including use of Polpala extract
Coitissmus management using Behavioural therapy.
Copulation disorders in Pregnancy.