Wednesday, May 28, 2014
By Razaque Ahamat
Having read Speedy's posting on the "1992 Reunion in UK", brought back fond memories of that event. It was the very first such events that I attended. In fact for me and my family there were many such 'Firsts'. That was the first and last Reunion that we attended as a family. Subsequently the children got dispersed to various Universities in Scotland and as such, latter Reunions were attended accompanied only by my wife. The one in 1992, I believe was the first for our batch as well?? If not I stand corrected.
It was at Marriot Hotel in Slough, Windsor, I think (Speedy thinks it was at Holiday Inn!--- if not my, apologies to him & stand corrected) and we did have a great time. It was most memorable to my eldest daughter as our Dinner Dance was on her 18th birthday on 18thy July and the Hotel very kindly had a Birthday Cake for her--- thanks to the organisers, and we all sang the usual song on such occasions to her surprised delight! That made her "Day" and talks about it even to this day.
There was another big surprise to all my batch mates and those at the event. I attended the Dinner Dance--- MINUS MY TROUSERS........ YES, NO TROUSERS!!!! No I WAS NOT DRUNK ------- I wore a KILT---- covering modesty!! ----- for the occasion to the surprise and delight of those present. As I was the only batch mate living and working in Bonnie Scotland, I thought it was appropriate to attend this event in a 'suitable attire'!! Of course there were the usual 'cat calls' and shouts from some our unruly batch mates.-- possessed under the influence of "spirits" (not ghostly variety but the gulping stuff)...."HEY, SCOTTIE WHATS UNDER YOUR KILT??" My comments are unprintable in this" hallowed" Blog!! I leave it to your imagination!!!! Unfortunately I have misplaced the photos of that event to support my posting. If and when I find then shall post them to jog your memory. Nevertheless, I do remember there were several photos taken by you guys(a unisex term!),. If you do have any, that posed with you, please post them or pass on to our tireless dear batch mate Lucky to do so--- I shall be most grateful.
"ONNA BOLLAY NETA KALISAN"
(Razaque at the Reunion with his eldest daughter who was celebrating her 18th birthday that day.)
Blog Administrators note: Reunion 1992 was not the first Batch Reunion. Perhaps, it was the first one held in UK. The first ever Batch Reunion was held in Sri Lanka in the early eighties.
Sunday, May 11, 2014
EXPERIENCES OF THE LIGHTER SIDE OF RACISM IN MY MEDICAL CAREER!!
All of you may be aware of the awful /torrid time I had being subjected to personal, physical, mental, racial and religious abuse in my Primary School life. Once I got to Medical School, thankfully there was no more "ALI-OLUWA,BIG HEAD,GOLUWA (because of my speech impediment), THAMMBBIYA/MARRAKKALAYA leading on to "T.C" (-- I shall let your imagination run riot as to what that means???) in view of my religious persuasion/belief ... Of course there was the rather innocuous name calling ---"BADAA" and nobody was not singled out. The recipients were mainly, the late Kumar de Silva (bless his soul, nivan sapa labewa), KD(-- sorry Ranjith) & of course 'yours truly'---- for that matter anyone who was considered to be"large" To us, the "large" ones, this comment went through one ear and out the other--did not lodge anywhere in-between\!!
In addition of course, yours truly had the honour (is it???) of being called "TUSKER" mainly by the Bridge playing fraternity. I wonder why? Maybe it was because of my "TRUNK" which one, I know not!!!!!-- as I did not have any visible tusks or NALA DATHS?? So much so when I was doing my Professorial appointment with Prof. Ransinghe, he asked a question and pointed at me and said "You, Tusker, answer this question" when he noticed that I was not paying attention! He had, of course picked up some 'bad habits' form the Common Room Bridge tables----I suppose. Of course he immediately apologised - being the 'Gentleman' that he was!!!???. I wonder if this was the first time that a Professor in Sri-Lanka/Ceylon has ever apologised to a lowly student??? I know not.
Other than the above instances, I personally was never at the butt end of any racism in Medical School. Nevertheless, there were rumblings of more virulent racism involving another group of mates mainly among the more junior mates!!! Shall not go there!!
On qualifying, I was treated with more respect --- in fact when my bosses were in a bit of a hurry to see their patients in Private Nursing Homes they would inform the remaining Clinic patients that -- "thang ara Loku mahathaya balai" and points to me and off they went!! Maybe because of my size??? In fact in subsequent years when I was DMO -- I was the "LOKU MAHATHYA" I wonder if it was a ... way of endearment or respect or due my portly stature physique......... I wonder???
Now in UK in London we were living in the St.George's HOSPITAL GHETTO at Tooting.. we felt quite "at home" with all those Asians and West Indians around us -- particularly at Saturdays while shopping. Tooting High Street was known as KYBER PASS!!! In fact there was a Sri-Lankan shop where we got our "local foods of home" The owner was a Sinhalese, always reply in the most atrocious broken/pidgin English even if we speak to him in Sinhala!!! Given time, he did improve, to give him credit!! In fact, once racism came from my family. We were on the Underground train on a Sunday, the days when we were without our own mode of transport, when couple of West Indians sat opposite us. My daughter was very talkative then and she blurted out " Mum those people have not washed their faces". Luckily they did not hear that comment!!! Incidentally it was this same girl, once when we were in a building material warehouse looking for some wall tiles for our bathroom in our new home, she came running to us and said "Mum that toilet does not flush and there is no toilet paper" pointing at one of the displays!!! We, of course , realising what she had done beat very quick retreat from the shop!!!! Of course,travelling on public transport in London was trial. I found that the seat next to me was often empty while the white folk would rather stand than sit besides me!!! At first I was angry, but subsequently I was glad as I had the whole seat for myself and had a very comfortable journey!! So, who cares??
Then, we moved to Aberdeen, Scotland. .We were the only "coloured" folk in the area until another family, Dr Nanthakumaran, a Lecturer at the Uni, his wife Dr Yoga.and two children moved a few streets away. We were a novelty to the area Our children all went to the local State School. The Nanthas and us were not infected by the 'London Sri-Lankan / South Asian disease' of " Private School / Double-Fronted Detached Houses / Mercedes Benz cars". People were extremely helpful and very friendly..... So much so that our front house neighbour, Mr Gordon Martin use to invite me in when he sees me out side and pour me a large whiskey-- 3/4 water tumbler and he calls it a "wee-dram" ----- indeed after that I was very-- "VERY". So, I have come to right place to practice my "spirituality"!!! Often when I see him outside, I do not go out, particularly when I am 'on-call' Once I had to go to the bank to get some cash and it was after 5 p.m.,--- as banks were then open late on Fridays in Scotland. Farina had gone into the bank as I had parked outside on double yellow lines-- on the lookout for Traffic Wardens!! I got out of the car to stretch my legs when a very drunk Scotsman, veering from side to side came towards me and verbally abused calling me a" bloody black so & so!! Some people in the nearby bus halt were very unhappy & angry at his behaviour. To the amusement of all around us this drunk walked into the nearby Indian Carry-out (a 'Carry out' is a Scottish term for a Takeaway - might as well call it a "curry out")!!!!---So-much for racism in Scotland!! More recently ,one of my twin daughters (the Dentist) married a man in a "skirt" --a Scotsman!! He is an Oil Executive with BP. They have bought a property in the country in Balbithan, Nr. Kintore in the outskirts of Aberdeen. The name of the house is ......you guessed it??? ...."HOGHOLM" Tt is not a pig-sty by any means---far from it. It means an EVERGREEN OAK. They do not intend changing it as it considered unlucky in Scotland to change house-names. .After all it is only a name---WHATS IN A NAME!!! Moral of this is that the "OORA"theme keep following me around and keep appearing like a BAD PENNY!!!
In New Zealand racism was more institutionalised--- particularly in job appointments than otherwise. Maories will have non of it. and are on the "war-path" and getting their own back A large number of S.African whites have now migrated to NZ and are not at all popular with the Kiwis. They seem to have their Aparthied tendencies with them and do not get on with the Maories / Coloureds. I had lot of them in my staff and they did not like when I corrected their English grammar!!
More so a SA Specialist doctor, who could not come to terms that I was his Boss. One day at staff meeting we were discussing what action we should take to confront the CEO on a decision he had taken!!! .There were lots of suggestions but no mode of action. It was then that I asked the question "who is going to bell the cat"?? This guy did not have a clue as to what I was on about? Then I related the story of "how a group rats that were trying to bell a cat the was reducing their numbers and decided to bell the cat. One wise rat asked the question " who is going to bell the cat???"" That's the morale of the story. This stupid SAfrican said that there are no rats in SA and thought that he had 'one over me'!!! But I "turned the tables on him" and I retorted "THEY ARE ALL HERE IN NZ , NOW"!!!! There were cheers from the rest of my staff....... certainly, was "" popular" with the S. Africans!!!!!!!
Then, there was this incident in 2007 during our Reunion at Cinnamon Lodge. We were boarding our buses at Cinnamon Grand in Colombo, when my wife saw our Kusuma, whom she knew from the time that her son, Harindra was a Medical Student in Aberdeen, and sat by her side. .I walked down the isle as I saw our Lameer and Ranjith Kuruppu "huddled together" like a pair of cooing love birds at the far end of the bus. As I walked up to them, Lameer, whose families were known to us, going back quite a few generations, said " onna enawa para hummbaya"!! Of course I had the gift for retort and said " that was rich coming from a para thambiya..... ....mama para hummbayek nevey ...... para JAVAVEK wennda puluvan???" Of course after the traditional hugs of long lost pals, got talking..... sense???
This got me thinking " Am I a descendent from a PARAYA / PARIAH or from a PHAROAH / ROYALTY or of NOBLE BIRTH????. It provoked me to look into my Ancestors and Genealogy!!!
So much for my experiences of Racism since qualifying as a Doctor!!!!! NEVER A DULL MOMENT??
In my next instalment I shall go into`` my Ancestry / Genealogy and beg the BIG QUESTION...........".MAMA KAUDA KIYALA DANNAWADA????" DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?? ALL WILL BE REVEALED----- PARA JAVA OR ROYAL JAVA OR----- PARAYA ..FULL STOP??? It will be a shocker and I am sure all you" guys" ( using a unisex term) will be eager to learn the TRUTH.!!!.
Kind Regards to all my MATIES.