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Friday, January 30, 2015

Creative Spot - "Meditation" by Zita Perera Subasinghe

(Introduction by Speedy).
This YouTube clip of a Zita performance is recommended to be shared with our colleagues. She plays "Meditation" on her Yamaha Clavinova 309. "Meditation" is one of the all time great musical pieces, composed by the French composer Jules Massenet for Violin and Orchestra, for the opera Thais in the late 19th Century. Zita performs with feeling and expression. It was a pleasure to listen to it while watching the beautiful selection of scenes.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Creative Spot - Speedy's newest creation

Sent in by Mahendra (Speedy) Gonsalkorale

This has been sung as a duet too by Jim Reeves and Deborrah Allen. I love its sentimental nature and gentle pace.


Professor A.S. Dissanaike

Prof. Dissanaike was Professor of Parasitology during our time and later became the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine.

The obituary in today's Ceylon Daily News is as follows:

PROFESSOR A. STANLEY DISSANAIKE (Former Dean of Faculty of the Medicine and Emeritus Professor, Head of the Department of Parasitology in Sri Lanka & Malaysia, Ex WHO, Geneva). Beloved husband of the late Ellerine, father of Surini, Niranthi, Eoma and Gerarde, father-in-law of Shanthi, Viktor & Caroline, darling papa of Rajiv, Ruwani, Kevin, Renuka, Glenn, Fiona, Jonathan, Christina and Lindsay, great grandfather of Keirys, son of the late Edmund & Adelaide, brother of the late Ben, Professor George, Bernice, Estelle and Joyce, brother-in-law of June, Vije, Cubby and Nuala Wijetunge. Service at residence No. 28, Welikadawatte, Nawala Road, Rajagiriya at 1.30 p.m. on Thursday 29th January. Cortege leaves thereafter to General Cemetery, Borella for cremation at 3.00 p.m. 013930 - See more at:

A member of our batch Manel Ratnavibhushana Wijesundera had written a nice tribute to our late teacher and it appeared in the Ceylon Medical Journal in 2004. It is reproduced below.

Ceylon Medical Journal › Vol 49, No 4 (2004)

Click here for the CMJ article by Manel"


Monday, January 26, 2015

Sportsmanship on the Tennis Court

The Australian Open Tennis Championships in Melbourne are in full swing. Rohini Ana has sent in this interesting news report on the second round match between Tim Smyczek of USA and 2009 winner Rafael Nadal of Spain. Although I am an ardent tennis fan myself, I had somehow missed it.

Smyczek's incredible moment of sportsmanship against Nadal

This could quite possibly be the greatest moment of sportsmanship we see all
year. And with so much talk of the death of the gentleman in sport it was refreshing
to witness this beautiful moment on Rod Laver Arena last night.

First, a moment of scene setting.

Unknown American qualifier Tim Smyczek is in the match of his life. He is on
centre court at a major against one of the greatest players the game has
ever seen, Rafael Nadal.

They have been battling for four hours in oppressive heat. Smyczek was long
odds to even get a set off Rafa but they are 6-5 in the fifth, the crowd is
on the edge of their seats. A huge upset is not too far away.

Imagine what is going through Smyczek's head. Playing against one of his
idols, going toe to toe with one of the greats. The pressure is intense.

At 30-0 with Nadal serving to win the match he throws the ball up and an
idiot in the crowd screams out during the ball toss. Rafa faults.

Instead of sniffing an opportunity for a shot at a second serve to get back
into the match Smyczek tells Rafa to replay the point, have his first serve

It was an incredible moment during the most intense game of the American
player's life.

 The crowd responded warmly and he received a standing ovation when he left
the court after finally succumbing to Nadal.

Rafa summed it up best when, in his post match interview, he said,"Firstly I
want to congratulate Tim, he is a real gentleman. What he did in the last
game was not a lot of people would do something like this at 6-5 in the
fifth after four hours."

 This from one of the true gentlemen and champions of the game.

Friday, January 23, 2015

My Dancing Debut

For the benefit of those who may not have read them before, I thought of posting some of my old articles that were published elsewhere.  Today, I want to tell viewers how I made my dancing debut.


My Dancing Debut 

More than five decades ago when we were young schoolboys, we didn't give much thought to ballroom dancing. But on leaving school and entering medical college, we soon discovered that learning to dance is a must, if one were to advance socially. At least that is what was drilled into us by our all-knowing seniors. I remember the day in the early sixties when one evening, I myself walked in gingerly with three of my medical student buddies, to Vivil de Kauwe’s Dance Studios in Kollupitiya. The urgent desire to grasp the fundamentals was that the biggest social event in a medical student's calendar, the annual Block Dance, was just around the corner.   

As tradition goes, our seniors had given us a thorough orientation as to what goes on and what is to be expected at social gatherings such as the Block Dance. “You will not be able to make any headway with any of the girls if you are unable to get on the floor with them”. To us juniors, that was the Gospel Truth. The vision of great things to come made us part with our scarce pocket money to acquire the much needed skills. 

Thanks to Vivil de Kauwe (and his pretty assistant), we learnt the basics. Oozing with confidence, we were ready for the Block Dance, which usually followed the Block Concert where the Block Juniors like us were to take centre stage. The effect of liberal doses of alcohol imbibed during our concert performance had not completely worn off when it was time for us to shower and change into our kits for the Dance. Transport was at hand and it was just a quick trip to the "Bloem" for a bath and scrub.

But we still needed booster doses of the same stuff (I cannot remember now whether it was "Gal" or "Pol" arrack) to gather sufficient courage to “approach” a girl of our choice. So the binge continued. On that night of nights, equipped as I was with my newly acquired dancing skills and fortified by the fiery liquid refreshment, I was brimming with courage (Dutch or Sri Lankan) and much needed confidence. I had no difficulty in extending my hand and asking the girl I was eyeing that evening “May I have this dance with you?” I was thrilled beyond belief when she readily obliged. So began a night of fun, floating around on the floor of King George’s Hall, with a girl in my arms in the semi darkness, whispering sweet nothings in her ear.
Anti climax

It was only the next morning that I found to my utter dismay, that I had not been able to make it to the Dance after all. Some time after our great block concert performance, I had “passed out”. The rest of it was only a dream.

Author's note: What I have written above is partly fiction. I remember very well that I did make it to the Dance after all. To put the record straight, I must confess that in my lifetime, it was only on one occasion that I had “passed out” after overstepping the mark. Or to give it straight, drinking excessively. More about that memorable drinking episode later.

Lakshman Abeyagunawardene

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Creative Spot - A new song by Mahendra (Speedy) Gonsalkorale

Please click on the following link for Speedy's latest creation. Another lovely song with music, lyrics, keyboard performance (on his Yamaha Tyros 4) and singing, all done by one man - none other than Speedy himself.
The words tell a story. It is about two people who were in love and one had to go away, but although the other had hopes he/she would return, it didn't happen.
These are the words.

There was a time

There was a time
There was a place
When nothing mattered
Just the two of us
Hand in hand
We walked together

You had to go
Leaving me here
You said good bye
As I held you close
I knew you’ll come back
So I waited
As time went by
I never heard
My heart was broken
We came unscathed
Through stormy seas
So much to give
So much to share
You are my dream
I want no other
Please come to me
I’ll make you happy
Now and forever
There was a time
There was a place
When nothing mattered
Just the two of us
Hand in hand
We walked together

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

An important note from "Speedy" to to all viewers

Please see Speedy's note below.

Hi Friends,
As you know, we have a blog site for our batch but only a few interact by writing a comment on a post. A lot of people said they don't know how to comment and I have helped our blog administrator Lucky to post instructions on how to make a comment.
Would you mind visiting  the blog and posting a comment on the post about "Visitors on holiday"? I want to see whether you could do it just by following the instructions given in the blog. This would help me a lot and if it is not clear or you run into problems, could you please come back to me stating the difficulty?
This link will take you to the blog.
PS: Users of the browser Safari would not be able to insert comments. (unless they have registered in the blog) but Lucky would be happy to add their comment on any particular post, if they send the comment to the email address given at the top of the blog or to Lucky's personal e-mail address. This applies also to anyone who wished to send a comment and are unable to do it through the means that I have outlined. 

Monday, January 19, 2015


Sent in by Srianee (Bunter) Dias


                                              Wealth without Work
                                           Pleasure without Conscience
                                           Knowledge without Character
                                           Commerce without Morality
                                           Science without Humanity
                                           Worship without Sacrifice
                                           Politics without Principles

Sunday, January 18, 2015

E-mail from Vasantha Rajasooriyar

3:12 AM (5 hours ago)
to me, Nihal, Preethi
Dear Lakshman,
Thank you.  It was very kind of you all to do this.  I read the blog with pride.  I will print it and keep it till my two year old boy and the baby girl due later this month are older and able to appreciate it.
Wishing you all the very best
Vasantha Rajasooriyar

Sent from my iPad

On 16 Jan 2015, at 8:19 am, Lucky Abey <> wrote:
Dear Vasantha,
Let me first offer my condolences on the loss of your beloved father.
Many thanks for sending me his photograph. I have already posted it on our batch blog, alongside the appreciation written by Dr. Nihal Amerasekera. All of us including your father, were in the same batch that entered the Colombo Medical Faculty in June 1962.
When you have time, please visit the blog by clicking on:

Dr. Lakshman Abeyagunawardene

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Some recollections of my early life

By Nihal D Amarasekera

was born in Kandy that splendid city nestling in the central hills of Ceylon. In 1942 the World War was raging and peace must have seemed far away. It was Douglas Walbeoff Jansz who severed my umbilical chord and slapped my back to help take my first breath in an unsettled world. My grandma was eagerly waiting with her watch to time the birth to cast my horoscope but had forgotten to do so in the confusion of the delivery room. By some strange coincidence Jansz was a Lecturer in Physiology during my time at Medical College. Despite its magic and charm Kandy was never to be my home. Even after all these years when I visit this idyllic city my past connections remain a magnet for my soul.

My earliest recollections are of Bogowantalawa at the foot of the Kotiyagala range. It was in the middle of tea country with many European Planters rushing on their motor bikes. Everyone wore mufflers and sweaters and rain was never far away. Then we moved to Kadugannawa near the Dawson column living sandwiched between two railway lines. The steam trains huffed and puffed at all hours and how we slept amidst that mayhem still remains a mystery to me.

In 1947 my parents decided I was of a ripe old age for schooling. My grandparents then lived in a large house at 56, Church Street, Nugegoda just beside St. Johns Girls School. There I spent three uneventful years but for a slight mishap when my mother in her enthusiasm sent me to school after a heavy dose of laxative. We lived opposite the Anglican Church and witnessed the baptisms ,weddings and funerals- the full gamut of Christian life. The Reverend T. A. M. Jayawardene and his elderly loyal servant became our family friends.

I still recall our independence from British rule in 1948. Although I was too young to realise its importance I remember the joy and happiness in the faces of the people. They were now released from the shackles of bondage that held them down for nearly 500 years. With freedom comes the responsibility to unite and strengthen our country with hard work. We were swept by a wave of nationalism. There was an overwhelming desire for change and the British and Dutch street names became the first casualty. Overnight the well known landmarks in Colombo lost their links with the past. It disorientated the older folk and disillusioned the young. Many still asks themselves whether this was ever necessary. The cost of this exercise was borne by our sagging economy.

The early 1950s was a time of idyllic splendour and tranquillity in Ceylon. As a nation it was our age of innocence. The Galle Face Hotel, The Queens Hotel, Kandy, and The Grand Hotel, Nuwara Eliya, were the only hotels with any star quality. The affluent and the not so wealthy indulged in a weekend flutter on the horses at the Race Course in Reid Avenue. The Parliament was by the sea and the breeze helped the politicians to think rationally and clearly - or so it seemed. During April the rich went "upcountry" to Nuwara Eliya to escape the Colombo heat. Galle Face Green on a Sunday was packed with people licking Aleric`s ice cream cones.

Colombo in the 1950s was a city of contrasts with the beauty of prestigious estates with pleasant houses in some areas and slums, shanties and tenements in others. The poor with large families lived in a single room in screaming poverty. The falling plaster, broken windows and fences, corrugated iron roofs were the hall marks of the poverty we saw. It is a scene straight from the annals of our urban life of that era. For many the new found political independence did little to give them home or hope.

For me real life began when I started at Wesley College at the bottom of the pile. The journey to school on the narrow gauge Kelani Valley train with friends was exciting. I felt grown up carrying the money to buy my own ticket. All Railway Stations had that special smell of steam and coal which hung on to our clothes for days. My father was in Government Service and had to move from town to town every 3 years, what was then euphemistically called "transfers". In their wisdom my parents decided to send me to the boarding, at great cost to themselves. It was to give me a stable life and teach me the social skills and discipline. I achieved their goals only to lose them in the rough and tumble of university life.

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. It was a sublime experience. The first day at the boarding was full of tears specially when wishing the parents good-bye. Nothing could have prepared me adequately for this trauma. It was the large frame of Mrs. Hindle, the matron, who welcomed us. The loneliness and bewilderment was overpowering at times. All our possessions were crammed into a large metal trunk and the clothes had our name tags. In the first term they all called me "new boy", a strict reminder of the pecking order.

Needless to say there was no television, no computers, and no mobile phones. We made our own entertainment and amused ourselves. 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 our own mortality when we read or hear of the death of school friends 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 or be ready for a pillow fight.

Unlike at present the students had no voice at all. Parents took decisions for us at home and the teachers did so at school. On looking back we believed teachers wielded immense power and perhaps they did. But law enforcement was done with knowing restraint influenced mostly by their faith. Others depended firmly on the swish of the cane. Punishments at school were a necessity to keep the riff-raff on the straight and narrow. The types of punishments were brought to Wesley by the British principals from English Public Schools like Eton, Rugby and Harrow. They were harsh and on looking back unnecessary. There were times when I raged at the injustice of punishments. In this 21st Century of human rights, corporal punishment is looked down upon as demeaning and humiliating for which there is no real need. Reading the reminiscences from the first half of the last century we get a glimpse of those hard times. It would be a mistake to apply the liberal values of this modern age to life at school 50 years ago.

Sports dominated my life at school. Cricket in those days was played by gentleman. Umpires word was law. We congratulated the opponents achievements in the field. We walked away when we felt it was out though the umpires did not see . The spectators’ dissent and applause was confined to areas beyond the boundary. No streakers, foul language or efforts to intimidate the batsman at the crease. When we lost, though crest fallen and frustrated, clapped the opponents back to the pavilion. Those injured in the heat of the battle were comforted by the captain of the opposite side. My generation grew up with peace. This gentlemanly behaviour on the pitch merely reflected the peaceful and chivalrous times of our youth. In the 21st century these seem rather tame as the cricketers have given up being gentleman for the high stakes they play for.

The enchantment of the cricket matches of my childhood still haunts me. At school cricket was not only a game but a way of life. My lasting memory of cricket at Campbell Park is the sight of the setting sun behind All Saints Church and its lengthening shadows. The church bell rang at 6.00 oclock. As the bails were lifted we all departed discussing the ups and downs of the days play. Losing a match in those days was like the end of the world but we always bounced back. It was certainly a good training to face the peaks and troughs of our own lives. The songs we sang and the friends I made are etched deeply in my memory. After leaving school I went for some matches in the following year. The magic and the aura of this extraordinary spectacle seem to have gone not being an integral part of it any more. Thereafter life got too complicated building my own career.

In common with the development of road transport worldwide, bus operation in Ceylon was pioneered by private enterprise. Private entrepreneurs like South Western Bus Company, Ebert Silva, High Level Bus Company and Ceylon Tours provided the service with many other companies whose names I cannot now recall. Demand continued to increase with population growth and the private companies found it difficult to change, invest and improve. The service began to crumble. The Government Nationalised bus transport in 1958 and the Ceylon Transport Board was born. The red reliable British Leyland single and double decker buses then were a part of the Colombo scene. Quickshaw Taxis competed for business with the Morris Minor Cabs. Rickshaws in the 50s were confined to Fort and Pettah. Trolley buses were popular for a decade in the 1950s running between Borella and Pettah. Bullock carts were seen on the roads well into the 1970s.

1955 saw the emergence of rock n roll music. The first Rock n Roll record to achieve national popularity was "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and the Comets . I queued for hours in the heat of the day to see the film at the Savoy. Bill Haley succeeded in creating a music that appealed to youth because of its exciting back beat, its urgent call to dance, and the action of its lyrics. The booming base and the twang of electric guitars produced a foot tapping sound. Haley abruptly ended the ascendancy of the bland and sentimental ballads of the crooners popular in the 1940s and early 50s. I was then in the boarding, singing, clicking my fingers and gyrating to the music coming through the Rediffusion set in the hostel common room. Music of Elvis Presley and Cliff Richard and the Shadows was all consuming to us teenagers. The Colgate Hit-parade on Tuesdays was as good as watching cricket on a Saturday. I cannot believe nearly 50 years have passed since those exciting times in our youth.

1956 saw the beginnings of the political decline of our country. We moved away from the Westminster style gentlemanly politics into an abyss. The jingoism and the ultra-nationalism was a recipe for division and disaster. It was Albert Einstein who said that nationalism is an infantile disease and is the measles of mankind. The rapid abolition of English as the state language drove many educated people away from the country. The Burghers who formed a colourful community and contributed immensely to the welfare of the island emigrated in their thousands to Australia, England and Canada. They had a tremendous love for life which they showed in the way they lived . I remember the sad goodbyes when my friends left. The first Dutch Burghers came to Ceylon four centuries ago, when the maritime provinces of the island came under the Dutch East India Company. They joined the legal, medical and teaching professions and played a major role in the fight for independence. During my time at school the Burghers ran the CGR and did so most efficiently. The time keeping of the Ceylon Government Railways was second to none. Their departure coincided with the economic and political decline and saw the beginning of the ethnic divisions which ravaged the Island. The politics of the country was in crisis and our coffers were empty. The many upheavals, disunity and the workers strikes had brought the country to its knees.

1958 - I remember it well as the year when the sport of kings - horse racing that began in 1922 was banned in Ceylon. I am no punter and it had no effect on me personally but a Saturday ritual of many, rich and poor, was suddenly taken away. The bookmakers and the customers went underground and business flourished. The beautiful Reid Avenue Grand Stand and its spacious turf was left to decay and wither. 1958 also saw the race riots, a tragedy which remained to haunt and destroy us until the end of the 20th Century.

The 6th form years at Wesley were some of the best of my life. It is indeed a wonderful experience to look back on ones life 50 years after leaving school. I was 18 then, life was beautiful and saw the world in vivid technicolor. Disagreements, disappointments and the heartaches seem to be all forgotten. All I can remember now are the pleasant memories of happy times. I recall the sunshine and the warmth and not the monsoon rains. Anecdotes and images appear at random. The innocence of the fifties gave way to the cynical and raucous sixties. Beatles and Elvis Presley were still riding high in the Hit Parade. The hippy culture of sex, drugs and rock and roll were making the headlines and setting the pace. When I started in the 6th Form Mr. P. H. Nonis was the Principal. He gave the sixth formers the freedom to walk in and out of school at will. At last we were treated like adults. I cannot remember any gross misuse of this privilege.

At Wesley we had the large expanse of the Welikada Prison just opposite our front gate. Every morning the prisoners wearing white were taken along Baseline Road by the guards in khaki shorts. Being so close to the prison for over a decade I had often let my mind wander about the life of those in jail. For many of us, even now, prison is almost an unknown place and very few knew what happened behind those grim gates that swallowed the convicts. We imagined that its inhabitants were desperate people and dangerous criminals. In our minds the place was associated with isolation, humiliation and suffering which were all part of the punishment. Sometimes the sheer lack of privacy and at other times the loneliness of solitary confinement must be soul destroying. Time then is not a luxury but a burden to endure. A few had the benefit of work and exercise. I would hate to think of what food they received and of the many who walked out free how they faced the world again.

In those days for anyone studying the sciences the choice was rather limited, being confined to medicine, biological sciences, agriculture and engineering. There was a belief that entry into Medical College was a passport to Nirvana. That was just an illusion which for a few turned out to be a nightmare. It was only the beginning of a long struggle with busy days and sleepless nights. I hope this popular misconception has now been properly addressed. If I am allowed to be cynical - it is no more a noble profession but a kind of business. As I look around the various professions, their nobility has been eroded by the pressures of modern living. As a sixth former in the sixties I wasnt to know all that.

A professional career with its disruptive routines and untold strain on my time and leisure has invariably taken its toll. I now look forward to the rest of my life with the same excitement as its beginning. As a sixth former at school I would never have imagined life would turn out this way. Call it destiny or the will of God, good fortune has been on my side most of the way.

I dedicate these memoirs firstly to my parents, who provided the encouragement and paid the bills, secondly to my teachers who educated me beyond the call of duty and thirdly to my mates at school and beyond  who by their friendship enriched my life.


Thursday, January 15, 2015


Sent in by Mahendra (Speedy) Gonsalkorale
As a lot of you know, I am a great Wodehouse fan. He is affectionately referred to as Plum. I noticed a Facebook Group called "The Drones Club" and I joined in a few days back. I posted a few of my observations which I reproduce here. I said "I am delighted to be admitted to this August Club although it is still January. I know what you are saying, "what took you so long!". I am an enthusiastic disciple of Plum and would without any hint of reservation recommend to anybody who feels a bit down hearted because of worrying events unfolding in the world at this time, to recline in a comfortable chair with a glass of the elixir in ice (the hot amber stuff balanced with ice cubes) and read any PGW Book. If this does not lift your spirits, nothing will and I would strongly recommend that you look without delay at an on-line catalogue and choose a suitable coffin. I look forward to regularly updating myself with snippets and epithets on Plum. Pip pip toodle oo!"
I also posted one of my favourites PGW quotes and I publish here a synthesis based on feedback from other members of the Drones Club.
There are many PGW quotes I like but this is one of my favourites.
"He looked as if he has been poured into his clothes and had forgotten to say 'when'". This came  from "Jeeves and the impending doom" where the description is as follows - "The Right Hon. was a tubby little chap who looked like he had been poured into his clothes and had forgotten to say “When.” P. G. Wodehouse, Bertie Wooster describing The Right Hon. A. B. Filmer, appearing in Very Good, Jeeves! (1930).
The other similar one is from Jeeves collections "The World of Jeeves" and "My man Jeeves" but the original story is called "Jeeves and the unbidden guest" and refers to Lady Malvern- quote "Lady Malvern was a hearty, happy, healthy overpowering sort of dashed female, not so very tall but making up for it by measuring about six feet from the O.P to the Prompt Side. She fitted into my biggest armchair as if it had been built round her by someone who knew they were wearing armchairs tight about the hips that season". Incidentally he also says that ".. when she spoke, she showed about 57 front teeth - altogether by no means the sort of thing a chappie would wish to find in his sitting-room before breakfast"
Wonderful humour.

If you wish to comment on this post, please follow the instructions below:-

1. Move your mouse cursor over the "no comment". or "2 comments etc" area and left click the mouse button.

You should now see "Post a comment " , with a boxed window where it says -"Enter your comment". Below that you will see- "Comment as" and a small window which says - select your profile.(with small arrows to choose options on its right side)

2. Type your comment in the box.

3. From Comment as: Select your profile, choose Anonymous from the pick list which appears when you click on the little arrows by the side of the select profile box.

4. Make sure you give your name at the end of your comment as it will appear as an anonymous post

5. Click on Publish. That is all

Visitors on Holiday

I had a few friends mainly from our batch, for dinner last night. They are all spending a holiday in Sri Lanka.

L - R: Senani (SD) Wickramasinghe (of our junior batch) from Canada, Nalin Nanayakkara (from California), myself, Suren Iyer (from England) and Nihal Goonetilake (from England)

Suren with the ladies

At dinner

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

How to post a comment

Many viewers have been asking me why they encounter problems (like asking for a profile ID to publish a comment etc.). They also want to know why only Mahendra (Speedy) Gonsalkorala has been able to post comments on new postings. The explanation is simple. Being an expert on blogging, Speedy had found a way of doing it although my settings had not been the way they should ideally be. Therefore, I sought his assistance to clear the way for anyone who wishes to post comments.
I am very grateful to Speedy who lost no time in sending the following set of instructions for the benefit of viewers. We are doing all this to make this blog more interactive.

I have helped Lucky to make some changes to the Colombo Medgrads Web Blog to make it easier to post comments.

There are several ways of doing this but the two most popular methods will be covered. I suspect most of you will be using Method 1 and I shall deal with it first. I have made it as simple as possible, not because I doubt the intelligence of users but to suit all types of computer familiarity.

Method 1

At the end of every posting by Lucky (e.g., Tilak Dayatane or English Countryside), you will see this:-  Posted by Lucky Abey (and time. e.g., 1:20am) followed by No comment if there are no comments or as 1 comment or 2 comments etc according to number of comments.

1.Now move your mouse cursor over the light blue  "no comment. or 2 comments etc" area and left click the mouse button.
You should now see "Post a comment " , with a boxed window where it says -"Enter your comment". Below that you will see-  Comment as and a small window which says - select your profile.(with small arrows to choose options on its right side)

2. Type your comment in the box.

3. From Comment as: Select your profile, choose Anonymous from the pick list which appears when you click on the little arrows by the side of the select profile box.

4. Make sure you give your name at the end of your comment as it will appear as an anonymous post.

5. If  you like to correct anything before it gets into the system or just like to preview it, click on preview. This will take you to a window where your comment is there and there will be a light blue "edit" area on which you should click if you want to edit.

6. Once you are happy, just click on Publish (again always with your Left mouse button), And that's it!

Happy posting!

Method 2

For those who have a Gmail address or Google address, after writing a comment as before, from Comment as:- choose Google from list. Then you will be taken to the Google login screen where you enter your email address and password.  Then your comment will be seen in the window and you will need to click on Publish. If you choose this method, your comment will appear with your chosen Google name (and image if you have added a photo) and not as Anonymous. 

Hope everything is clear now and let us see more and more people contributing with comments-


Monday, January 12, 2015

New Ministers

As you all know, the new Cabinet in Sri Lanka was sworn in yesterday. This follows the Presidential Election that was held on 8th January, 2015.

Our batch colleague Wasantha (Owitigala) Jayasuriya's husband Karu Jayasuriya is the new Minister of Public Administration, Democratic Governance and Buddha Sasana. Wasantha's son-in-law Naveen Dissanayake is the new Minister of Tourism. The latter is a son of the late Minister Gamini Dissanayake.

Our congratulations go out to Wasantha and her family.

Harsha Samarajiwa - The True Professional

By Nihal D. Amerasekera 

Harsha Samarajiwa joined the Faculty of Medicine after an illustrious career at Royal College as a fine cricketer and an academic. 

I met Harsha in 1962 amidst the rough and tumble of life in the ‘Block’.  We were pulverized, decimated and reduced to nought by the indignities of the rags, weekly signatures and quarterly revisals. All through those years Harsha maintained a certain calmness and held on to his dignity. He was known for his cheerful and friendly manner.  

During those arduous medical student days he continued to play cricket for the University.  In 1962-63  The University Team that won the coveted Sara Trophy has a legendary status amongst cricket lovers.  To play a sport that consumes enormous  swathes of time and then manage to complete the course as planned is a goal not many could achieve. Fast bowlers by nature are said to be aggressive like “Lilley and Thompson”. Although a fine and effective ‘quickie’ I have never seen any of that belligerence  in Harsha in all the years I have known him. 

When my mother fell ill in 2008 one of my relatives took her to Harsha. When he came to know this was my mother she was treated as a special patient, fees were waived and everything possible was done to make her comfortable and free of pain. All this was done before I arrived on the scene from the UK and  also before I had any contact with Harsha.  Now that I would regard as true friendship. He spoke to me in detail about her illness and kept me informed as nothing further could be done. I valued his skill, care and compassion and respected his opinion.

The kindness and the deep concern that he showed me during those difficult months is a tribute to his professional expertise and etiquette. I have the greatest respect and regard for Harsha for being helpful when my mind was at its lowest ebb.  As I recall, when I thanked him he just smiled, patted me on the back and went on his way. 

I am told many cricketers and other sportsmen from my era sought his guidance. They are full of praise of his skill, fine bedside manner and also his exceptional kindness and generosity. His patients appreciate enormously his humour, expertise and modesty. 

During his long and successful career in the Health Service he was a great role model and a mentor and guide to many doctors. Many of his junior staff became imbued with his infectious enthusiasm and went on to become consultants.  

We are in the habit of pouring tributes and appreciations , posthumously, when people have left this world. There are times when it is wise to disregard protocol and commemorate the lives of those who are living and still provide an immense  service to society. Harsha is one of those self effacing, unsung heroes of the Medical Profession. 

Harsha, I thank you once more for being so good to my mother when she was at the end of her life. It has been my great good fortune to walk with Harsha on this journey of life. I wish you many more years of good health and happiness.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

My Article in the Asia-Pacfic Journal of Public Health

I am pleased to let you know that my article on Walter Patrick has been published in the January 2015 issue of the Asia- Pacific Journal of Public Health. For your information, as you will see, this publication is a prestigious peer reviewed international journal. This particular issue is a special commemorative issue for the late Professor Walter Patrick about whom I wrote in this blog when he passed away some months ago. 

To see the full article, I think one has to be a subscriber. But I have reproduced below, the complete text if you have not seen it before. Please click on the following link to see the cover page of the journal.

Click on: Current Issue - January 2015

Walter Patrick’s Contribution Toward Public Health Education in Sri Lanka

It was on 22 May, 2014 that Prof. Walter K. Patrick passed away suddenly in Antonio, Texas. The loss of this eminent leader in Public Health/Community Medicine was felt throughout the region, but more so in Sri Lanka where his important career as a Public Health Education professional began. 

Walter continued to serve the country of his birth even after he left the shores of Sri Lanka in 1983. He had ample opportunities to do so particularly as the Secretary General of Asia-Pacific Academic Consortium for Public Health (APACPH) and Head of the Global Health and Medicine Program of Studies at the John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii at Manoa since 2004. Prof Patrick joined the University of Hawaii in December, 1983 as an associate specialist and later as associate professor until he retired on 30 June, 2013. In Sri Lanka he will be remembered for his service in the Health Education Bureau of the Ministry of Health from 1975 to 1983 as a Health Education Specialist. 

Early Years 
Walter received his early education at St. Joseph’s College, Colombo and he entered the Colombo Medical Faculty in 1957 where he graduated MBBS in 1962. As a medical student, Walter resided at the Kittyakara Men’s Hostel in Colombo and being a devout catholic, was actively involved in the Medical Faculty’s Catholic Students Union. 

He was five years senior to the author in the Colombo Medical Faculty, and graduated just before I entered medical school in June 1962. I first met Walter when he was working in the Health Ministry’s Health Education Division which was then located in an insignificant corner at the “Boatyard” adjacent to the Beira Lake, just behind the old Parliament Building at Galle Face. 

Unlike the developed countries that had fully qualified Health Education Specialists, Sri Lanka at that time had none. In 1973, the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) provided funds through the WHO to the Health Ministry to send five medical doctors with experience in Public Health (selected through interviews) to universities in the United States on 18 to 24 month Fellowships, to be trained as Health Education Specialists. The WHO found placements for the five selected doctors in prestigious universities that had reputed Schools of Public Health. Thus Walter Patrick (along with the late Merle Perera) went to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. The writer himself (along with the late Marcus Fernando) proceeded to the University of California, Berkeley and the late Upali Perera to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At the time he was selected for the WHO Fellowship, Walter was the School Medical Officer in the southern city of Galle. 

Health Education Bureau 

The newly qualified Health Education Specialists dutifully returned to their home country after completing their Masters degrees in Public Health (MPH) majoring in Health Education. On their return in 1975, all except one were posted to the Health Education Bureau (HEB), which by then had been upgraded and shifted to the former Health Education Materials Production Unit (HEMPU) premises at Kynsey Road. According to the plan drawn up by the HEB’s first Director Dr. Tilak Munasinghe and WHO Consultant Dr. Nagaraj, the Bureau was made up of a number of Sub Units, each handling a special area of work at the national level. Walter was placed in charge of the Education and Training Sub Unit and that is where he showed his mettle with outstanding achievements.
Walter Patrick’s achievements as the head of the Education and Training Sub Unit are too numerous to mention. But there are a few accomplishments that need to be recorded here. 

Post Graduate Training in Health Education 
Walter played the leading role in training local Health Educators and it was in the 1980s that a post graduate course leading to the degree of Master of Science (MSc) in Heath Education was developed by the HEB. Significantly, it was with this new degree course that the Post Graduate Institute of Medicine (PGIM) broke tradition by opening this MSc course to non-medical candidates. All recipients of degrees from the PGIM had up to that time been either medical or dental graduates. 

During the long and strenuous training at the first residential course was conducted at the Diyagala Boys’ Town in Ragama, Walter was supported by his medical and non-medical colleagues ably led by HEB Director Dr. Tilak Munasinghe. Walter had developed a training curriculum similar international courses, a combination of classroom teaching and practical field experiences. At the end of a hard day’s work, there were many sessions of singing and dancing where the teaching faculty mixed freely with the trainees. 

Mahaweli Project 
One of the major projects of the new government that came to power in 1977 was the Mahaweli Project under which major rivers were being diverted by building hydro electric dams. Existing townships were submerged and displaced communities had to be accommodated in newly cleared areas. As the Mahaweli project gathered momentum, it was under Walter’s direction the displaced settlers were prepared to start their new life in new areas. Bands of volunteer health workers were recruited and trained to work closely with Public Health Inspectors and Family Health Workers at village level to educate families and look into their health needs. New settlers in Mahaweli areas needed special attention in this regard. Thus HEB staff spent days and nights travelling and working in these sites including Mahailluppallama, Maduru Oya, Digana, Kotmale, Teldeniya, Mahiyangana and Girandurukotte. We all enjoyed sipping plain tea in wayside cafes or in humble thatched homes while chatting with villagers, occasionally throwing in health messages when appropriate!
Training Health Workers in Jaffna 
In those peaceful days when all races co-existed in perfect harmony, we thought nothing of spending weeks in far off Jaffna, occasionally enjoying frothy palmyrah toddy freshly served straight from the tree! I remember very well the two weeks we spent in Jaffna during a training programme for health workers in the north. Field trips to the islands such as Kayts were especially enjoyable. All this was done under Walter’s able leadership. 

Research and Publications 
Walter was a frequent contributor of scientific papers to international journals and had many publications to his credit. Two of his earliest publications – “Volunteer Health Workers of Sri Lanka” and “School Health Education in Sri Lanka” were published during the time he served the Health Education Bureau in Sri Lanka. In the latter part of his career, Walter was a member of the International Advisory Board of the Journal of Experimental and Clinical Medicine at the John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawaii at Manoa. 

Walter as a Person 
Walter was married to Viji, who proved to be a very loving and supportive wife, who specialised in psychiatry. Their only child Natasha is married and well settled. Apart from Walter’s professional talents, he was a fine human being. Having known him for well over 40 years, not only as a professional colleague but also as a personal friend, it was not difficult to come to such a conclusion. Being extremely friendly in nature, Walter was an unassuming, modest personality. 

Walter and I belonged to two different races. He was a Tamil and I belong to the Sinhala race. Thanks to my early upbringing in the place where I lived as a child and in the school that I attended, I somehow developed the right attitude whereby I only thought of others as fellow human beings. I am proud to say that many of my closest friends are Tamils and Walter was one of them. When we chose friends to associate with, we never ever thought of them as Tamil or Sinhalese. 

Walter’s sense of humour knew no bounds. Many were the parties that we attended together. Many were the field trips that we did in each other’s company. How can I ever forget how with a glass in hand, Walter tried to get others drunk! If one managed to stay sober, it was quite noticeable that the level of liquid in his own glass never went down! He was a “shammer” of the first order when it came to drinking. Walter was fondly called “Manoharan” as there was a popular Tamil singer by that name at that time. Walter always tried to sing, but whether he was successful or not is a moot point. 

I remember the day I visited Walter and Viji at their Daya Road residence in the aftermath of the unfortunate July 1983 racial riots. Fortunately, they had been spared of any physical harm and while quite bitter were very forgiving. In 1982 Walter was awarded his PhD by the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Not long thereafter, he emigrated to the US and accepted a position with the School of Public Health at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. 

Present Status of Health Education in Sri Lanka 
Health Education is now a recognised discipline in Sri Lanka and the pioneering work of the first Director of the Health Education Bureau went a long way in achieving this. Starting almost from scratch, when mere information giving activities such as display of posters, distribution of leaflets, pamphlets and folders, health exhibitions and cinema shows supplemented with public announcements over mobile loudspeakers was passed off as public health education, Dr. Munasinghe brought together a dedicated set of professionals to build up the discipline to acceptable levels. That achievement will long be remembered as an important landmark on the path to progress. In fact, the period extending from 1972 to 1990, will go down in history as the Golden Era of Health Education in Sri Lanka. It was mainly the achievements and untiring efforts of his able lieutenant Walter K. Patrick that made HEB Director Dr. Munasinghe’s stupendous task that much easier. 



Friday, January 9, 2015

Weligama after 20 years

by Dr Nihal D Amerasekera  


Those were happy peaceful days in my youth when life was full and in harmony with nature. During the long University vacation  I decided to travel home armed with some reading material. I can still recall the large black canopy of the Fort Railway Station and the smell of steam and burning coal. There was soot everywhere. The trains hissed and puffed and screeched incessantly. The 3 hour journey was uneventful but for a talkative young Englishman seated in front who began a long conversation. He indulged lavishly in the Vadeys and pineapples sold by the vendors at the Railway Stations along the way. The sight of the stilt-fishermen, with their unique style of fishing from a perch on a sturdy pole 20-50 meters out to sea remain in my memory still.

In 1962 my father was working for the Local Government in Weligama. My parents then lived on the outskirts of the town some distance away from the sea on the Akuressa Road. On either side were paddy fields, banana plantations and palm trees. Across in the distance was the backdrop of purple mountains. Ours was a new house built on a hillside surrounded by tall jak, breadfruit and mango trees. It was an idyllic setting with a gravel path leading up to the house. At the edge of the property  was a stream full of fish. At night the frogs made an awful racket. In the morning the  dawn chorus was deafening.  During the day I walked in the garden sat beneath the trees. Sometimes I did some fishing downstream and enjoyed seeing the village damsels frolicking and bathing in the muddy pool.

In the warm afternoons I went out for a walk across the fields or through the forest. Every meal was a feast of mouth watering sea food with a pot of local curd and honey. The short walk to town was full of greetings from the friendly locals.  A retired Apothecary lived in a large mansion nearby. He was a quiet kind man with a few professional anecdotes which he related over and over again. In the evenings we went to the old Rest House by the sea. It was beautifully located at the edge of the Weligama bay . The tall cylindrical columns of its long verandahs gave it a colonial feel. On many occasions I had sat on the rocks watching the waves roll in. It was very pretty at sunset to see the boats go out to sea and the shimmering lights appear across the bay in the far distance. Heaven and earth seem very near to each other.

Off the beach is an extraordinary villa occupying a 2 acre island in Weligama Bay. It was built in the 1920s by the traveller and gardener Count de Mauny. The island was a  famous destination for many notables from different nations, including the novelist Paul Bowles. Its spectacular tropical gardens, and  octagonal-shaped house is breathtakingly beautiful. Its early colonial furnishings, large circular  verandahs make you step back into the 1930’s and is a travellers dream. Music from Noel Cowards “a Room with a view” wafts in the background giving it an “olde world” feel. The Count finally chose to live his eternal dream of peace and tranquillity close to nature ending his days in this paradise island. There was a busy main street of small shops and a fish market. The Railway Station was small and had a quaint grey picket fence. I still remember its Seth Thomas pendulum clock in the Station Masters Office. There was just the one doctor working in Private Practice – Dr Nugara a kindly gentleman of immense grace and charm. He later left to settle in Australia. Sometimes we visited relatives in Kitulampitiya Galle and occasionally went to Matara to see the sights. After my vacation I said goodbye to my idyllic home to return to Colombo and  a busy schedule of hard work.

I left Sri Lanka in 1974 to ‘make my fortune’ abroad. More exams and hard work filled my days and nights. Carving up a career took its time and toll. Years whizzed past and it wasn’t until 20 years later I returned to Weligama the town that has haunted me since those days of my youth.

I made the journey by car to save time. The roads were no wider than before but the number of vehicles had increased several fold. The result was mayhem with noise and pollution. Despite the fast moving traffic people, cattle and dogs cross the road in gay abandon. Weligama was unrecognisable. The popular landmarks had disappeared and  I found our former home with difficulty. The many tall trees that surrounded the house had gone perhaps ending up as furniture in a plush Colombo Hotel. The lovely gravel path to the house had become a muddy track left behind by lorries  and bull dozers. The  gushing waters of the stream was now a trickle without any life being a casualty of intensive farming with pesticides. Worse was yet to come. An old man seated on the steps of the house looked bemused but greeted us warmly. The property has been brought by developers and the house was allowed to decay. The door creaked as it opened. My heart sank to see the long strands of cobwebs stretch from wall to wall. Wooden windows had perished and fallen away and the house was a haven for cockroaches and mice. In places the roof had caved in. The plaster had come off the rain soaked walls. Doom and desolation filled the air. As I moved from room to room I felt uneasy and claustrophobic remembering the life and the laughter and the happy times we have spent there. I spoke little and left the house heart broken to see my home in ruin and my memories shattered. Many of the neighbours had died and their children moved away. The main street was packed with people and full of life. There were many tourists bartering and moving in and out of the numerous shops. The astrologers and palmists made a quick trade.  The buzz of the place absorbed my attention for awhile. Rest of the town looked prosperous too. Many of the houses had Televisions Radios and VCR’s. They were well maintained with lovely gardens and cars in the porch. The people certainly  looked more affluent and healthy. With industrialisation we are losing touch with mother earth and the rich harvest it brings. The tourists bring us the valuable dollars and litter the countryside with the products of their own artificial lives. In the evening I sat on a rock by the Rest House watching the sea. There have been new additions to the Rest House which was not in keeping with its colonial past. Snorkelling and speed boating had stopped for the day. I watched the waves roll in as I had done all those years ago wrapped in my own  thoughts. There were Coca Cola cans and  polythene bags rolling in the breeze on the baked golden sand. I left Weligama with mixed feelings. Sad that my past has been desecrated but happy to see prosperity has reached that beautiful town of my dreams. After all I cannot allow the dreams of my youth get in the way of progress. 

In writing these notes I have tried to give my moods and thoughts as it occurred. To me the last 50 years have been one rich gift amidst some misfortune. It is politics and destiny that would decide what the next 50 years would bring for Weligama.

Many yesterdays of my youth lie buried in this beautiful country of my birth.

I wish to dedicate these memories to my maternal grandfather Dr DB Weerasekera who accompanied me in the journeys to this idyll. He paid for my rail ticket, discouraged me from eating the vadeys and pineapples from vendors due to fear of bacteria and held my hand when I crossed the road although I was a grown up man. I wish I was there to hold his hand in his final hour.

(Author's note: This article appeared in The Island newspaper nearly 2 decades ago).

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Life has to go on....

I was in two minds trying to decide when I should publish this particular piece. I mean resuming regular blog postings so soon after announcing the sad demise of Rajasooriyar. During the past couple of months, we have witnessed batch colleagues departing this world at an accelerated rate. That is to be expected when our age group is entering a phase in life when the natural process of ageing has to take its toll. Apart from Rajasooriyar, we have lost Punsiri, Arul, Priya and Lucien on the trot. But life has to go on!

It is in the months of December and January that most expats usually spend a holiday in their motherland. Thus we who are permanently in Sri Lanka, get the opportunity to meet and greet old friends, some of whom we have not met for ages. A grand lunch organised by Pram who by now has earned a reputation as a magnanimous and gracious hostess, was one such occasion. The venue was the poolside on the Mezzanine floor of her Hyde Park Residencies. The date was January 7th, the day before Sri Lanka's latest Presidential Election. Pram had invited her Methodist College classmates and medical school colleagues (mostly visiting expats on holiday).

I have selected a few pictures to give viewers an idea of what took place.

From the class of 1962
L to R: Chandra, Srianee (Bunter), Anton, JC, Harsha, Lucky, Sura, Pram and Rohini

From our senior batch
L to R: Lalitha Mendis, Narada Wijayatilake, Nalin Perera, Nilani Sugathapala Gajawira, Sam de Zoysa


Pram's Methodist College group with Bunter, Gitanjali (Sidath Jayanetti's wife), Chandra Silva and Shirani Thenabadu


Pram on extreme right. Standing in the background are Nihal Thenabadu (our senior) and Chris Simithrarachchi (our junior)

Rohini Abhayaratne & Anton Ambrose

Pram with Charmian Wijayatilake (Narada's wife) and Mangala (my wife)

The spread