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Monday, February 27, 2017

Millionth Hit? No, not yet

At the time of writing, our Batch Blog has had 963,961 "hits". I was hoping that the millionth hit would come in time to coincide with the 50th Anniversary since our graduation. But alas! It was not to be.

As the Blog Administrator, I take a peek at blog statistics from time to time. Today, at around 10.30 in the morning, I see that there have been 47 pageviews so far. Quite naturally, more recent posts attract the most number of viewers. Surprisingly however, the post on the Anatomy Block Centenary commemoration dated 3 November, 2013 continues to lead. Please see below:

Feb 21, 2017, 6 comments
Feb 24, 2017, 6 comments


Graph of most popular countries among blog viewers

Entry                                       Pageviews

United Kingdom                       374 
Sri Lanka                                321
United States                          276
France                                   149
New Zealand                            71
Germany                                 62
Australia                                 22
Netherlands                             21
Ireland                                    17
Canada                                   15

Suriyakanthi's article in the Island newspaper.

Good build up towards our Reunion. Suri's article in today's Island newspaper.

Celebrating 50 years of graduation as medical doctors


On the 4th of June 1962 One Hundred and Fifty Eight young men and women, who had secured admission to the University of Ceylon, to pursue a career in Medicine, entered the portals of that great institute of learning – The Faculty of Medicine, Colombo. We had gained entry purely on merit on the performance at the GCE Advanced Level Examination. There were students from across the island from Chilaw to Batticaloa, from Pont Pedro, Chunnakam, Tellipalai to Galle, from Pannipitiya to Matale.

We had to face a Viva Voce Examination conducted by the Faculty in Colombo. Students were allocated to Medicine, Dental Surgery or Veterinary Science depending on the overall performance. I remember being questioned on subjects ranging from space travel to Beri Beri!

Of the many distinguished teachers we had, only Prof Priyani Soysa and Prof. Carlo Fonseka are still with us. We were the first batch that Prof. Carlo Fonseka taught on his return to Sri Lanka after obtaining his doctorate.

It is noteworthy that our batch was multi-talented. There were several outstanding Sportsman. Ace Spin Bowler Thomian Lareef Idroos and Benedictine Cyril Ernest, played for the National Cricket Team. Royalists Harsha Samarajiva and Kiththa Wimalaratne were well known school boy cricketers. They were all members of the University of Ceylon cricket team that won the P Saravanmuttu Trophy in 1962-1963 V Kunasingham played in the University Hockey team and represented Sri Lanka in Hockey as Goal Keeper. Royalist J.C Fernando a champion Public School Athlete, Ranjan Wattegedara a National Tennis Champion and Sidath Jayanetti an outstanding Rugby player in the University Team. Virginia de Vos a champion swimmer.

There were those who excelled in the field of Fine Arts. Sushila Thiyagarajahan exponent of Bharathanatyam who had presented her Aragentram, Sujatha Lena a member of the famous "Heen Baba Troupe". Rohini Anandarajaha graceful North Indian Manipuri dancer and Primrose Wijewardanea Sinhala Radio Artiste with several recordings to her credit.

We were unique in that we were the first batch with a parallel batch in Peradeniya, there being only one Faculty of Medicine, in Colombo up to 1962. Our batch increased in numbers with passing years, reaching a total of 168 by 1964 due to 10 students joining the batch from the Peradeniya Faculty.

Having a parallel in Peradeniya resulted in our batch being cautioned that post intern employment in the Health Department could not be guaranteed. This caused an exodus of many of our batch mates to seek employment abroad. As far as it was possible to trace they are scattered in the UK (30), the USA (34),Canada (1),Australia (9) and New Zealand (9), while the balance continued to serve in Sri Lanka.

Among those who remained in Sri Lanka some chose to be Academics. The most distinguished of these was the late Chandrasiri Niriella who was the Vice Chancellor of the Ruhuna University and the Professor of Forensic Medicine at the Ruhuna Medical Faculty.

Sanath Lamabadusuriya held the post of the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine Colombo and the Professor of Paediatrics. He was awarded the M B E by Queen Elizabeth the II Manel Wijesundara was the Professor of Parasitology Faculty of Medicine Peradeniya

Lalani Rajapakse wasthe Associate Professor of Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine Colombo.

Kusuma Ruberu was the Head of the Departments of Physiology and Medical Education, Faculty of Medicine Sri Jayewardenepura.

The writer and Sanath Lamabadusuriya had the distinction of holding the post of President of the Sri Lanka Medical Association, in 2006 and 2011 respectively.

Those of our batch who chose to specialize in the varied branches of medicine shone in their respective fields. Revo Drahaman is an Otolaryngologist

M. H. S Cassim, Chirasri Jayaweera Bandara,Zita Subasingha and J.G Wijetunga are Ophthalmologists. The first three were Presidents College of Ophthalmologists Sri Lanka.

(Late)Lucian Perera was a General Surgeon. Lalantha Amarasingha specialized in Plastic Surgery and was the pioneer consultant of the Burns Unit at the National Hospital Colombo. Though retired, he continues to work at the Army Hospital on a voluntary basis.

Chanaka Wijesekera is an Orthopaedic Surgeon and Nithya Jayawickrama an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist. Victor Rajapakse, (late) W Rajasooriyar and the writer are Anaesthesiologists.

Senarat Jayatillake is Sri Lanka’s first fully qualified Oncologist. Chithra Weeratunge was the Chief Medical Officer Ports Health Authority. SardhaWijayratnewastheChief Medical Officer of the Tyre Co-operation. Puwan Sivananthanis a Rheumatologist. Harsha Samarajiva and Chandra Udukumbura are General Physicians and Rita Alwis a Paediatrician.

Ranjith Bulathsinghala, late Tilak Dayaratne, Swarna de Silva, J. C. Fernano, Suranganie Fernando, late V Ganesan, Roshanara Gunaratne, Gwendoline Herath, Ananda Hettiarchchi, Ranjit Kuruppu, Shirlene Punchihewa, and H. N. Wickramasingha are General Practitioners serving in different parts of Sri Lanka.

Some of our batch mates chose Public Health and Administrative positions.

L. N. D Abeygunawardane secured a WHO fellowship to specialize in Health Education. Having worked in South Carolina, he returned to Sri Lanka to work at the UNICEF as a Director Health Education.

(Late) Bernard Randeniya was the Director of Cancer Hospital Maharagama.

(Late) Punsiri Fernando was the Director of the Anti-Malaria Campaign.

Wimal Jayakuru was the first female Chief Epidemiologist.

S.A.P Gnaissara was a Medical Administrator who became the Deputy Director General of Health Services (Training and Research) Ministry of Health.

Pramilla Senanayaka was the Assistant Director General of the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

Sriyani Basnayake was the Medical Director of the Family Planning Association of Sri Lanka.

(Late) Priyade Silva was also engaged in the Family Planning Field.

Wasantha Jayasuriyawas a Medical Officer of Health in the Colombo Municipality.

Sadly 29 of our batch mates are with us no more. They are sadly missed and fondly remembered.

The Graduating batch of 1967 had their first Reunion at the Holiday Inn Colombo in 1988, and Its 25th Anniversary Reunion in 1992 at the Lanka Oberoi .The first Reunion including all those who could join from abroad was held in 1997 at Coral Gardens Hikkaduwa. The 40th Anniversary Celebrations were held at Cinnamon Lodge Habarana in 2007. Our 45th Anniversary was held at Chaya Trans Hikkaduwa in 2012 with a record number of 56 batch mates participating along with their spouses. In addition to these several reunions have been held in the UK and the USA.

This year when our batch is celebrating 50 years of graduation as Medical Doctors, a grand reunion is planned at the Jet Wing Blue Hotel in Negambo from the 3rd to the 5th of March, and 52 batch mates and their spouses are expected to attend. This is indeed remarkable as all of us are now more than three score years and ten in age. Some of us are meeting for the first time after half a century and we are looking forward to a fun filled weekend. The action packed programme includes a brief Mini "Scientific Session" on Saturday morning and a Grand Reunion Dinner Danceon Saturday night.

This has been made possible due to the hardworking organizing committee ably chaired by super-efficient Swyrie Balendra with Lakshman Abeygunawardane acting as Secretary, and Committee Members Sriyani Basnayaka, Pramilla Senanayake, Sriyani Dias and the writer.

Dr Suriyakanthie Amarasekera

Some enduring and endearing memories of my family (II)

By Dr. Nihal D. Amerasekera

I am an  ‘only child’, a rare breed when several kids per family was the norm. One doesn’t miss what ones doesn’t have. The parental bonds became strong and and its intensity seemed endless.  To me my mother was closer to me than anyone else in my life.

My maternal grandparents belonged to different religions and grew up in different regions of the country. They met at Deltota hospital in 1918 where they worked. It was love that brought these two contrasting but emancipated personalities together.  Their marriage lasted a lifetime. They brought up their children during horrendously difficult times of World War II. There were food shortages. The healthcare was rudimentary and one of their daughters died of meningitis aged 13. In those dark days a sense of apocalypse dominated the lives of people. This uncertainty pervaded every aspect of society. During the colonial period people had fewer rights. They were crushed by the weight of rules and regulations. The Crown was God and always right!! Travel by road or rail was expensive, time consuming and often treacherous.

My maternal grandpa was an Apothecary. He was a softly spoken, quiet, noble man from Kandy. From the time I can remember he had grey hair. He took life easy but worked diligently. He was a sage, a philosopher, a raconteur and an expert in country lore. Grandpa was an amateur astrologer too. Such old characters were fast disappearing and becoming an endangered “species”. He was not interested in money except the bare minimum to sustain his family. My grandma was a qualified nurse. She was a firebrand from Kurunegala with lots of courage and foresight. She was a sprightly, intelligent woman whose passion for crosswords won her numerous prizes. She helped to drive the family forward through uncertain times.

My grandfather endured the nomadic life of government transfers every four years. My mother was born at Watawala, a small town on the Avissawella–Hatton Road. Surrounded by tea estates it is sandwiched between the torrents of the Mahaweli  and the busy Kandy- Colombo Railway line. As their children grew up my grandfather  got  a transfer to Kandy. Mother had her entire schooling at Girl’s High School in Kandy. She always spoke most warmly of her friends and life at school. My mother retained her friendships and the loyalty for her school attending many reunions well into her old age.

Like many girls of her generation she married at 18. I recall with great nostalgia the wedding photo that hung in the lounge. I remember her slim figure draped in a white Kandyan saree carrying a bouquet of flowers. With jewellery in her hair she looked a princess. My father had a dapper crème suit and a handkerchief in the jacket pocket. Their happy smiling faces said it all. Thus began their voyage of hope for a better future.

I was born in Kandy that splendid city nestling in the central hills. In 1942 the World War was raging and peace seemed far away. I was told the doctor severed my umbilical chord and slapped my back to help me breathe. And so I saw the light of an unsettled world. My grandma was eagerly waiting with her watch to time the birth to cast my horoscope. With the febrile atmosphere and the confusion of the delivery room grandma forgot to record the time. 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.

 As old age came to my grandparents they had the respect and love of the extended family. Their eyesight and the hearing gradually failed. They became mostly confined to home. I visited them from time to time and saw the decline. Whenever we met there was always much to relive and reminisce. They loved to retell old family stories and recollect some delightfully amusing ones. Grandma kept touching mementoes of our family like photographs and paper cuttings, which she cherished immensely. To her every photo spoke volumes. Grandpa died in 1983 aged 89. I was then in London and felt the loss deeply. After his death, for grandma life became an ordeal. She lead a quiet life and remained fit but frail. I have often seen her sitting alone wrapped in her own thoughts. Memories of the past stared at her from every room, photographs and family occasions. The great void in her life could never be filled. Thankfully she remained in good health to the very end. Grandma passed away in 1986 at the age of 86. I will always remember grandma’s diligence, energy and enthusiasm and grandpa’s calm reflective kindness. To me it was an end of an era.

My parents lived in an era when responsibilities were more important than personal rights. They gave their all to their children and took it upon themselves to look after their siblings and also their parents. We now live in an age when much is said about our rights and less about our responsibilities. I regret deeply not being with my parents in their time of need. We make important decisions in our youth which we cannot undo. We have to live with the consequences. I was deluged with advice which was lost in my quest for progress and personal glory. On looking back, we have disagreed on many occasions but in the fullness of time my parents have always been proved right. This admission is little consolation after all these years. Writing about these events is a cathartic experience.

Memories of my mother come easily to mind. The image of her kind face, deep brown eyes  and curly hair are always with me. From way back I can still recall the lullabies she sang to me as I fell asleep. Her bedtime stories of Kings and Queens and fairies are still fresh in my mind. Her love and care for me knew no bounds.  I saw her shed a tear as she left me in the school boarding. Mother took my teenage tantrums in her stride, with a knowing smile. I remember her joy when I received the letter for entry into medical school. My mother was such a wonderful cook. Her Christmas cake was so very special. Mother loved music.  She often got me to play “Till we meet again” and “Let the rest of the world go by” both classics made famous at the turn of the 20th century. They both have such poignant and haunting lyrics.  I still keep a collection of her favourite music which I play as a tribute to someone very special.   She was visibly upset when I left for the UK in 1974. On my many trips back home I saw her age. It was indeed a privilege to have her in the UK for sometime. She was happy in herself at home in Sri Lanka cooking, knitting and sharing her life with friends and family.

My mother fell ill in 2008.  I was immensely fortunate to have Harsha Samarajiwa care for her until the very end. He made her comfortable and free of pain. All this was done before I arrived on the scene from the UK. That is 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  during those difficult months is a tribute to his professional expertise and etiquette. I have the greatest respect for Harsha for being so helpful during my darkest hour.

Indeed, time did fly. The ebb and flow of my fortunes brought happiness and despair in equal measure. I had stepped on the treadmill to carve myself a career and raise a family. The stress of exams, tiring work routines and the inevitable pleasures and heartaches of family life are all behind me now. During those years I was seduced by the bright lights and the material world. Thankfully, now with retirement, calmness prevails.

With my egotistical narrative I recalled the part my parents and their parents played in my life. Being an only child I was always at the forefront of their thoughts. Nothing was ever done to hinder my progress through life. My mother has always been by my side through thick and thin. Mothers love for a child is ever so special and no words can describe it adequately. Although she lived 5000 miles away in Sri Lanka I could always feel her presence by my side. It is a wonderful feeling of love. I owe them everything.  Both my mother and father have now passed on. I dedicate these notes to my parents for their infinite love which sadly I could never fully reciprocate.

Celebrating 50 years of graduation as medical doctors

Suri's article in today's Island newspaper.

Click on:

50th Anniversary Batch Reunion 2017 Final Instructions

I have already sent this by e-mail to the batch.

Attachments21 Feb (6 days ago)

I have attached three important documents:

1. Final instructions

2. Reunion programme

3. Academic programme

Please feel free to request any clarifications.

50th Anniversary Batch Reunion 2017
Final Instructions
1.     All participants will assemble at Cinnamon Grand Hotel, Colombo on Friday 3rd March, 2017.
Please make sure that you arrive well before 9.00 am. Load your baggage direct into one of two buses parked outside. Do not unload the baggage and bring them into the hotel lobby. If possible, report to Lucky so that he may mark you as “Arrived”.

2.     Be present in the lobby by 9.15 am and go into the Atrium for coffee.

3.     Board the two buses to leave Cinnamon Grand for Negombo at 10.30 am.
Those who have not done so yet, hand over the Extra Payment to Pram or Sriani who will be at the entrance of each bus.  Any donations of hard liquor can be handed over to Suri or Srianee (Bunter) who too will be near the entrance to each of the two buses.

4.     Arrive at Jetwing Blue, Negombo around 11.30 am (approximate).
Identify your baggage at Jetwing Hotel and gather near the registration desk.

5.     Following registration, rooms will be allocated as soon as possible. After checking–in to your room, assemble in designated area for fellowship.

6.     Lunch at 1.00 pm.

7.     Post lunch, relax on your own till evening (nap time in room, walk, dip in pool, visit beach etc.).

50th Anniversary Batch Reunion 2017
Programme at Jetwing Blue
Day 1 (Friday 3rd March)
1.     Arrive at Jetwing Blue Hotel, Negombo around 11.30 am (approximate).

2.     Following registration, rooms will be allocated as soon as possible. After checking–in to your room, assemble in designated area for fellowship.

3.     Lunch from 1.00 pm

4.     Post lunch, relax on your own till evening (nap time in room, walk, dip in pool, visit beach etc.).

5.     Gather in designated area at 7.00 pm for drinks, informal dancing, sing along (Live music provided)

6.     BBQ dinner on the beach at 9.00 pm (if weather permits)

Day 2 (Saturday 4th March)
1.     Breakfast in restaurant from 7.00 am onwards.

2.     Gather in the main hall for Academic Session by 9.45 am.

3.     Academic Session from 10.00 am to 11.00 am

4.     Group photograph at 11.30 am

5.     Lunch at 1.00 pm

6.     Post lunch, relax on your own till evening (nap time in room, walk, dip in pool, visit beach etc.).

7.     Batch Banquet and Dance at 8.30 pm (Live band will be in attendance)
Dress code: Smart casual but anyone can come in formal wear if that is their choice.

Day 3 (Sunday 5th March)
1.     Breakfast in restaurant from 8.00 am onwards.

2.     Check out by 11.00 am.

3.     Leave for Colombo at 12.00 pm.

50th Anniversary Batch Reunion 2017
Academic Programme
Venue: Main Hall

10.00 am-10.05 am Welcome – Lakshman Abeyagunawardene (5 minutes)

10.05 am – 10.25 am  History of Karapitiya: the sweat, toil and tears
                            Sanath Lamabadusuriya (20 minutes)

10.25 am – 10.40 am  Health benefits of being active in retirement:
                    musically speaking
                            Mahendra Gonsalkorale (15 minutes)

10.40 am – 10.55 am  Use and misuse of antibiotics in Sri Lanka
                        Malkanthi Wijesuriya McCormick

10.55 am -11.00 am Wrap up
                        Suriyakanthi Karunaratne Amarasekera


Friday, February 24, 2017

There's a Road

There’s a Road …… 

In memory of our beloved
Colleagues who are no more

 1. S.R. (Sunil) de Silva
2. A.R.K. (Russel) Paul
3. Dawne de Silva Paul
4. Bernard Randeniya
5. NiriellaChandrasiri
6. V. Ganeson
7. L.G.D.K. (Irwin) Herath
8. V.Kunasingham
9. B.L. Perera
10. B. Somasunderam
11. K.Sunderampillai
12. Tudor Wickramarachchi
13. K.N. (Kiththa) Wimalaratne
14. Anna PonnambalamSathiagnanan
15. A. Satchitananda
16. N. Sivakumar
17. T.A. Dayaratne
18. SidathJayanetti
19. N. Balakumar
20. KamaliNimalasuriya de Silva
21. K. Sri Kantha
22. P. Lucien Perera
23. Priya (Gunaratna) de Silva 
24. Arul (Sivaguru) Balasubramaniam
25. W. Punsiri Fernando
26. W. Rajasooriyar
27. M.P.C. Jaimon
28. S. Vedavanam
29. Farouk Mohamed 

There’s a road that’s made of memories
Starting from our med school days
Each colleague left us souvenirs
As we happily went our ways

Our hope was that, of everyone
Having a rich and fruitful life
Work to be mixed with a bit of fun
Not much in the way of strife

Then, news of loss ofthe very first life
We thought they were playing the fool
‘He died with his kids and wife!’
Next, ‘who could just drown in a pool’?

More losses unexpected
By heart attack and accident
Each sad news left hearts dented
Were they an unfortunate precedent?

Lucian rang me out of the blue
I am in the UK and very soon
I’ll visit you! Yes, it’s true!
Next there’s an accident and doom!

Bala was in real high spirit
Get post-grad exams fast he can
He will top the list of merit
And bring pride, to his great clan

He too met his death too early
Then followed by Bernard and Dawn,
Hearts broken we cried dearly
They had just reached, life’s first morn

How ‘bout BL I met at a meeting
Anna would come if we could take her
Arul was sorry but sent a greeting
Then they went to meet their maker!

We spent time with such great mates
What can be, the best five years
Suddenly they go through Pearly Gates
Leaving us, in real sad tears

Siva, Satch, Sidath, Irwin
Leaving too early, were our fears
Didn’t you know we’d be grieving?
Crying till there’s no more tears?

Priya,Kamali Arul, you gave a shock
To us all, you’re such close friends
Sri Kantha, Bala you were our rock
Never thought your time here ends

Tho’ each name not get a mention
Your faces are truly carved in stone
You are in a ‘period of detention’
We’ll be with you, you’re not alone.

Zita Perera Subasinghe(the poem) and Mahendra Gonsalkorale (the rest!)
Feb 2017

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Some enduring and endearing memories of my family

By Nihal Amerasekera

For the first half of the last century we were under British rule. They were uninvited guests in our country. The British were in Ceylon not to give us financial aid but to take away what we had without our permission. With the rich pickings from the Empire they made their country Great. However, they established the rule of law in Ceylon, a just and efficient administration and Western style parliamentary democracy and personal liberties. Both my parents were born during the British Period and were largely influenced by their presence. The Christian Missionaries established many schools. The schools of the time glorified British rule. The Western way of life pervaded the lives of the upper and middle classes in Ceylon.

My father lived and died in the 20th century. The 2 world wars, Russian revolution and the rise and fall of communism and fascism must have affected the lives of that generation enormously. That was a generation which took pride in their sacrifice to their country, parents and their children. We are fortunate to be at the receiving end of their boundless generosity. For the later generations focus has sadly moved away from generosity and sacrifice into a selfish lifestyle. This has occurred worldwide and not only in my tiny island home. It must be said the later generations are responsible for the moral awakening and the enormous strides towards conquering disease. So perhaps the honours are even.

At the tender age of 14 he lost both his parents within the short space of 6 months. I am reminded of a quote by Oscar Wild  " To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness." That was an unimaginable tragedy for a young family. With his 4 brothers and 2 sisters he moved into “The Castle” at Kudabuthgamuwa owned by his unmarried maternal uncle. The Castle was a large house in a coconut plantation with many fruit trees. In those days it was the duty of the close family to step in to help. The burden of the family fell on Uncle Victor. He was a slim short  man with a Hitler’s moustache. He believed in strict Victorian discipline, hard work and Dickensian punishments. All he wanted for the children was a good future.

Uncle Victor was portrayed as a miser and there are stories galore, some most amusing, about his tight fist. It may seem too unkind to relate them now. The kids were no angels and got into all sorts of mischief. Plucked fruits without permission argued, fought and often “forgot “ to give the needed respect to the elders. In those days children should only be seen and not heard. Punishments for misdemeanors came thick and fast. They had many good times too living together close to nature in that large estate. They relied on each other for their very survival.  Uncle Victor never married until all the children grew up and moved away. Such personal sacrifice must be a rarity now. Uncles 3 boys  became useful members of Ceylonese society. The middle son Asoka became the Professor of Veterinary Science and the Dean of the Faculty at Peradeniya. The old couple lived well into their 90’s. My father had grown rather fond of “The Castle” and its surrounds. It is here he acquired his lifelong love of the countryside. Time moved on and so passed his early years.

My father’s  eldest sister Hyacinth married Edward Ashley Peries and  settled in Kegalle. For her it was going back to her roots and from then on she never looked back. E.A.Peries had a thriving practice as a criminal lawyer and later became the Crown Proctor. He was a person with immense charm and charisma which endeared him to the people of the district. They made him Chairman of the Urban District Council. He mixed local politics and his busy law practice with tremendous ease and poise. I remember the lavish party they had when the Governor General bestowed on him the OBE. The great and the good gathered to dance the night away to the sounds of live music. Those were chivalrous times and was the era of Ballroom dancing made popular by Victor Sylvester. It was Champagne all the way. No expense was spared. The party ended with breakfast in the morning for the few survivors. 

The Peries family home was on Circular Road Kegalle and was called “Ashley Hall”. It was built on the side of a hill with a layout similar to an English Manor House. The house was hidden away from the road by a tall well trimmed Hibiscus hedge. There was a lovely manicured lawn in front carefully  maintained by a  gardener. The large elegant roses were always in bloom and gave the whole garden a lovely scent. Even now whenever I smell roses it takes me back 50 years to Ashley Hall. There was a pond with gold fish and lotus leaves, a magnet for kingfishers. The house had numerous rooms with a wide spacious verandahs and a separate servants quarters. The hall was beautifully carpeted and had chandeliers and a grand piano. The Philips ‘wireless’ had a green magic eye for tuning. It was a standard ritual to gather round the radio in the evenings. Amidst the hiss and the crackle we listened to the Ashes test match via the  BBC. Sunday Choice and House wives choice were popular programmes. His Masters Voice gramophone was a symbol of affluence in those days. I have always considered Ashley Hall  as my spiritual and ancestral home.

One of my fathers brothers affectionately called ”Tiny”  was a Superintendent at Etana Estate Warakapola. The estate was a 900 acre rubber plantation managed by Mackwoods Ltd. Every rubber tree had a peeled strip of bark from which oozed the latex which collected in a coconut shell. The workers collected the latex and deposited in the factory where it was weighed before payment. The Rubber Factory was a large building made of corrugated iron and contained all the machinery to process the rubber. I still remember the noisy rollers and wheels that worked throughout the day. For the humble workers the pay day was their best day to get drunk and beat the drums and dance. This was the only release from their dull and monotonous life. We could hear the drums deep into the night. They lived in the “lines”( a single room for a whole family)  in abject poverty. I still recall those naked children with bright eyes looking at us with envy. For them there was no escape from the cycle of poverty. Such were the undignified lives of the underclass that propped up our economy.  We live in such an iniquitous world.

I remember spending a happy April holiday at Warakapola knowing well it was to be my last at Etana.  My uncle retired and moved away from Etana Estate in 1961 thus ending yet another chapter of my rollercoaster life. Although I resolved to visit this idyll I never had the opportunity to see Etana again.

Time passed relentlessly as always. After a gruelling 5 years in Medical School I emerged as a doctor in 1967. By now I had learnt to mix work with pleasure and enjoy the fruits of my labour.
Uncle Tiny died suddenly in 1971 at the General Hospital Colombo aged 58 when I worked there as a junior doctor. He was a gracious host at social functions. If surrounded by a sea of turmoil  he was an island of calm. It was a great shock to us all and a sad loss to many who knew him.

Once when I was in Kegalle  in 1988 I revisited Ashley Hall. With the passage of time Uncle and aunt had passed away and the younger folk moved to the metropolis.  Ashley Hall was on lease to a Government Department. The house and garden were in ruins. The turf had been dug up and the roses were gone. The garden was a temporary store for unwanted tables and chairs. The pond was dry and its wall had caved in. We walked into the house which was then empty . There were puddles of water inside the house from a leaking roof.  An old man who was the caretaker took us round and there was an all pervading eerie silence. It was sad to see Ashley Hall in such decline. In place of the gorgeous chandeliers in the hall there was just a naked bulb. It was all too much for me. We told the man we spent our childhood there and he seemed to know the past too. Through the cobwebs of the rear window Saradiels Utuwankanda rose majestically into the sky unchanged in all those years.   Before I left the caretaker said he and several others hear music and voices and see apparitions in that house. Knowing the past they have learnt to accept it as the norm. They all say that about old houses. Many yesterdays of my youth are buried in Ashley Hall.

When my father was ill I remember returning to Sri Lanka and the painful journey home. He was conscious drifting into silence from time to time. We spent a warm and happy time together at home. I remember well seeing my father alive for the last time. I had to say goodbye to leave for England. He was now well into his 80’s and had several minor strokes. His mind was not always clear. The bright eyes and the chubby face I knew as a boy was gone. He was partly bald and the hair was silver. Lines and furrows crossed his face and there were dark shadows round his eyes. His final illness has taken its toll. He never spoke but knew he would not see me again. His face grew calm. The eyes said it all. It was a long sleepless flight back to London. I reflected on his stories and the love and  kindness since the very beginning. I never saw him again.

On this Blog I have narrated many of my adventures though life. I hope this narrative will bring it further into view. It is difficult to write as a detached onlooker when being so much a part of it. So it is coloured by my vision and how I saw it long time ago. It is a story of progress and regress, of hubris and humility. When I look into the life and times of the many players who took part in my life’s drama.  I see the awesome force of destiny that fashioned and molded their lives.
The swift  passage of time never fails to amaze me. The river of life runs on when youth passes into middle age and old age and then on to the vale beyond. I dedicate these memoirs to all those of my family who have now crossed those pearly gates. May their Souls Rest in Peace.

I close with the wisdom of Omar Khayyam from the Rubaiyat.
Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend,
Before we too into the Dust Descend;
Dust into Dust, and under Dust, to lie,
Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer and–sans End!