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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

London Reunion 2018

My Recollections of the London Reunion 2018 

By Nihal Amerasekera

I stepped on the treadmill of life on my first day at school and stepped off on my retirement. It’s been a long haul. Study, exams, career and family have consumed my time. All through those years what stands out are the friendships I’ve made. Friendships are one of life’s great gifts.

The London Reunion as it is called now is the brainchild of Pramilla Kannangara. She has used her exceptional organising skills for the past 2 years to gather the troops living in England for a summer meeting. Pram has the wonderful gift to collar and cajole her ‘victims’ to attend. Without Pram, the reunion would never have taken place. Satay House is a Malaysian restaurant close to the Paddington Station in a quiet street away from the heavy London traffic. The venue was chosen for easy access by public transport.

We gathered together around midday. The spirits were high and I felt I had stumbled into a time-warp. As always, some of us have not met since that fateful day in 1967. As we stepped in there were peals of laughter for the mistaken identities.The black mops of hair that once crowned young adolescent heads half a century ago, had now turned silver. But some have preserved the old order with a magic formula. Everyone was sprightly but for an occasional shuffle. Many remembered the faces but recalling names was that much harder. Such is the price of seniority nowadays!!

As we sat down to a sumptuous lunch, there was much reminiscing and great nostalgia. Having already chartered their mark as respected professionals, modesty ruled the day. Thankfully, a discourse on position, power, wealth and achievements never raised its ugly head. It was so wonderful to be together again. The merry disregard for noise regulations continued until the very end.

We give a special welcome and thank you to the friends who made it to the reunion. They came from near and far. It was lovely to see Mahes Nadarajah nee Singharayer. She came with her daughter Vino and grandchildren all the way from Manchester just to be with us. She hasn’t seen many of us for several decades. Sumathipala, who is now a regular at our blog, came with his wife Latha from Birmingham. No one recognised him except perhaps myself as we both converged on the restaurant together. He lives near the Edgbaston Cricket Grounds and we have vowed to meet again soon when I visit my son in Birmingham. They were seated next to me and were wonderful company. Haris  Boralessa has retained his full head of hair, a veritable luxury at our age. He soon got into his stride with his amusing tales about mutual friends. We thank his wife Harshi for being with us despite their busy schedule for that evening. Sushiela Kanagasabai was on her way to a wedding and looked gorgeous in her colourful saree and glistening jewellery. She looked more like the bride!! It was so good of her to come. Sunil and Sirima Abeysuriya are most supportive of our gatherings. Sunil has not changed since the Faculty days. He remains a fine raconteur. We love to hear Sunil’s stories as a doctor in several continents. Despite a mishap back in Sri Lanka recently, it was great to see Dharmani Makalanda and Amara looking so well and full of the joys of an English summer. Amara was clicking his camera in every direction and hopefully has captured some candid shots. It was great to see Sunanda (Jimmy) Wickramasinghe who shared his interests and experiences. He continues to work part-time in his surgery. We value his support for our reunion. It was so good of Indrani Subramanium to join us despite her difficulties and we must thank her daughter Rosemarie Moore for providing the support and transport. As many of us boys would recall Indrani was a bubbly girl in the Faculty. She has been a regular since our meetings began. Indrani is now much subdued just like the rest of us. Zita and Joe have always been enthusiastic supporters of the reunion. We did miss Joe this time. As on previous occasions, Zita moved around the tables to speak with everyone. There was at least one person who didn’t recognise Rohini Abhayaratne which surprised me no end. It was great to see Rohini who was in my alphabetical group all through the 5 years. I think our group got off lightly at ward classes and clinical appointments, thanks to her presence as the daughter of the Dean of the Faculty. I must say, to her credit, that Rohini wore that genetic connection lightly and conducted herself with great dignity. Many failed to recognise the slip of a girl who floated the long corridors of the GHC like a wispy cloud. Manil Katugampola (nee Hettiaratchi) is still slim and hasn’t lost that mischievous smile and her kind and thoughtful ways.

On this occasion we remember absent friends. Suren Iyer sadly left us so suddenly at the beginning of this year. We recall warmly his presence at our last Reunion and his humorous anecdotes of our Faculty days. B.T Batuwitage was a regular attendee of our meetings in London with his lovely wife Geetha. Last year we recognised he was unwell. We remember with affection Batu and Geetha at this time and hope the coming months and years will be kind to him. We send our best wishes to Geetha who is his ever-loving carer. Mahendra Gonsalkorale was away on a trip to the antipodes. Sanath Lamabadusuriya is a regular summer visitor to England. He attended the event last year but this time he had his family converge on him in Colombo. Shanthini Nalliah was on her way to Sri Lanka. We saw DSC Attale last year who has since remained incommunicado.

Then came the ever-popular photo call. Many pulled out their shiny smartphones. There was the all important group photograph. As so many photos were taken it was hard to maintain a natural smile for so long. Risus sardonicus comes to mind!!As gravity has taken over our lives, standing still for any length of time is a tough ask. Despite our infirmities and creaking joints, we managed to please the paparazzi.

We had a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with the people with whom we spent five glorious years of our youth. Where have all those years gone? The Reunion has enriched my soul. Although the food was good and the company was jolly, like all good things it has its end. After the lunch the time was nearing 3.00 pm and we all started to get itchy feet. Asian goodbyes take time. This went on for a further half an hour, with hugs and kisses, until we finally dispersed. One cannot put a price on the friendship and camaraderie that we enjoyed. Those who did not attend missed something very special that money can’t buy. Our thanks go to Pram for organising such a wonderful event. Once again thank you to all those who attended. May we have the good fortune to meet again. It is Au revoir and not goodbye.

L to R: Rohini, Sunil, Sirima, Latha

 Latha, Sumathi, ND

Mahes, Harshi, Susheila, Pram

Back row: Mahes, Bora, Susheila, Sumathi, Sunanda, Pram, ND, Manil, Rohini, Sunil, Dharmani
                                                        Seated: Indrani and Zita    

Rohini, Sunil and Sirima

Monday, June 18, 2018

Vedavanam's death anniversary

Vedavanam's death anniversary falls on 27 June. The following are Eulogies by his daughter and son.


My father was incredibly humble and modest and would be so honoured by the fact that so many of you have travelled so far to be present to help us pay tribute to his life. Thankyou all for coming.

It is very daunting to stand before you all today and try to provide some words to do justice to the man who, with our mother, created me and my brother and guided and nurtured us throughout our lives with endless love and patience. He remains a father who eclipses all others.

However, I will do my best to remember his life as he would have wished – with joy, rather than sadness. Each of you had your own unique relationship with my father and I don’t presume to know the man that you knew, but I will describe the man I had the good fortune to have as a father.

Appa was born in Jaffna Town, in the north of Sri Lanka, the son of Murugesu, a stationmaster from Mavidapuram and Nesamani, a housewife from Thunavi, Vaddukoda. He was the much loved youngest of 3 siblings, with 2 older sisters, of whom his middle sister Lakshmi is the surviving sibling. Although he went onto university in the capital and left his home town and eventually the country of his birth, he still retained the homely values of the region of his birth, which he used to inform his own parenting and duties of a spouse and son – the importance of familial ties and the need for hard work, infused with tolerance, patience and adaptability. He cared for his mother, my grandmother, throughout much of the latter part of her life, as she was widowed when he was at university. He did this with no demur, and those who knew them both described the endless care he would take with her, bathing her himself when she became too frail to care for herself without help. He married my mother, Dhushyanthi, in 1975. My mother’s father, V.Kumaraswamy, was a formidable character, and nationally very well known as a lawyer, MP and cabinet minister. However, despite his eminent status, he was impressed by, and greatly respected my father’s gentleness and kindness. Although my maternal grandfather died when I was 2, I am made aware by other members of my family, that he felt that his daughter (my mother) was very lucky to have my father. Conversely, I know that my father also felt very lucky to have my mother – exceptionally caring, well educated, attractive and incredibly hard working - indeed, it was only after he married my mother that he felt able to entrust his mother’s care to someone else, and Amma carried out this duty with a daughter-like devotion.

As I described earlier, Appa was at heart, a Jaffna man. As well as retaining those core values I spoke of before, he also retained a love of Jaffna rice and curry and sweet treats as well as fried chicken and fish and chips (much to the exasperation of my mother, who regularly cautioned him about his consumption!) Indeed, his love of fried chicken (which my brother has inherited) may well have influenced my own career path. When attending interview for a large London medical school, I was accompanied by my father and brother who decided to avail themselves of the opportunity to tuck into a KFC bargain bucket in the waiting room with the other candidates. Despite receiving an offer from said medical school, I could not bring myself to come back, fearing I would forever be remembered as the girl whose family decided to have a fried chicken picnic in the waiting area!! Interestingly though, my brother decided to go to that very same university a few years later…obviously enticed by the availability of fried chicken!!

My recollection of my own childhood was that of endless moves around the country (a typical experience for an immigrant doctor), yet I felt very anchored and secure in the cocoon of my parents’ love for me and my brother.

Appa sacrificed huge amounts in order to provide his family with whatever we needed, and we never felt in want of anything, whether materially or emotionally.

He instilled in us the importance of trying one’s best in any situation, and was immensely proud of my brother’s and my own academic and career achievements. However, he also instilled in us the knowledge that all these achievements were nothing without a loving and secure family environment. He provided a sterling example of the strength of a man who truly loves his wife, and he was extremely proud of his 4 beautiful grandchildren, whom he adored. They celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary less than 2 weeks ago.

I believe my parents example is the reason that my brother and I have been so fortunate in our own life partners, although we can only aspire to emulate their success with us (!!)

Although Appa supported us throughout our lives, he was never prescriptive, and allowed us to seek our own course in life. When I married Vick, he quoted the following words by Kahlil Gibran which I feel encapsulates his approach to us and to life:



“Your children are not your children,

They are sons and daughters of  life’s longing for itself.

They come through you, but not from you.

And though they are with you, they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thought.

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backwards, nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. The Archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with his might so that his arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the Archer’s hand be for gladness;

For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so he loves also the bow that is stable.”

And my Appa was truly the stable bow that allowed my brother and I to fly. My mother, brother and I recognise how fortunate we were to have had the time with him that we had, and we are left with no regrets about the nature of our relationship with him, only grief that we did not have longer: a truly powerful legacy.

Krishnaveni Vedavanam

Son’s eulogy:

My dear Appa- you were my best friend and gave unending love to me, Krishni
and Amma. Many of your friends and family have come to see you today. I know
you would not want me crying now.
I thought I would share a light hearted story that only you and I were party to-
16 years ago at my university interview, you took me to London by train and
when I was called into the interview room, you tried to come in with me. The
lady said Dzhe is a big boy nowdz. This sums you up- always caring, always
supporting us to the end, much to my embarrassment at the time! How I wish I
could share this story with you. I know Akka has many similar stories.
You sacrificed your home, career and even retirement to ensure your family
never wanted for anything. I cannot remember a time that you were unable to
offer us support- emotional, financial or physical.
You will live on in us in many ways- I think of certain phrases that define you-
tolerance and patience, you only have one sister, pamper your mother,
Mercedes- Benz, who has the pleasure of making me a tea? , I have a duty.
The legacy you and Amma have created is formidable – 2 children- 3 grand
daughters and a recent grand son. I think you thought it was good that Geetha
and I had a son to have the same special relationship that we share, and I am
thankful that you met him.
The way you left this earth was sudden and shocking, but I am glad you did not
suffer and were still fully functioning to your last breath.
I think this poem sums up what you would say now:
When I come to the end of the road
And the sun has set for me,
I want no rites in a gloom-filled room,
Why cry for a soul set free!
Miss me a little - but not for long
And not with your head bowed low.
Remember the love that we once shared,
Miss me, but let me go.
For this journey that we all must take
And each must go alone;
It's all a part of the master plan
A step on the road to home.
When you are lonely and sick at heart
Go to the friends we know,
And bury your sorrows in doing good deeds.
Miss me, but let me go.

Sivatharan Vedavanam

Thursday, June 14, 2018

CoMSAA Peduru Party

The Peduru Party organised by CoMSAA was held on Friday 8 June in the main Administration Building of the Colombo Medical Faculty where we spent 5 years from 1962 to 1967. It was held in the 3rd floor lecture theatre where we used to have lectures in Medicine, Surgery etc. I was waiting for the official photographer's pictures, but since they are getting delayed, I thought of posting a few that I took with my camera phone. But the quality of the photos is poor.

When Mangala and I walked in, we were pleasantly surprised that we were ushered in to the elevator/lift to be taken to the venue from the lobby. I told the two students who accompanied us that when I was a medical student some 50 years ago, the lift was exclusively reserved for members of the staff like Prof. Rajasuriya and that students were debarred from using it. Later, I observed that medical students of today were using it freely. I first spoke to our ushers in English, but sensing their discomfiture, I soon switched over to Sinhala. I was told that they are first year students and had never heard of Prof. Rajasuriya.

When the Dean Prof. Jennifer Perera was addressing the gathering, she commented that some of her own teachers were present there that evening. As I had not been on the academic staff and was never her teacher, but got to know her when she was only the Professor of Bacteriology a few years ago, she paused to turn to me to ask "Lucky, when did you graduate?" In reply, a said that I was an year senior to Narada (Warnasuriya) who was seated next to me. However, I was not the most senior doctor seated there. Among the others who were present was Dr. Ranjith Abeywckrama who was an year senior to us and who retired as ENT surgeon NHSL some years ago. His wife Venerealogist Dr. Iyanthi by the way, is the President Elect of CoMSAA.

Chairs are available 

Students who were seated on mats on the floor.

The Dean, Prof. Jennifer Perera addressing the gathering

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Suren, you won't be there!

Suren, you won’t be there!

Suren, alas! You won’t be there
At the mini reunion this year
On the planned Saturday where
We say ‘Hi’ to a few friends dear

 Your voice, sadly, silent will stay
When I talk of a serious problem
I won’t hear ‘that very best way’
How to solve that knotty conundrum

No more talk of student days
And how much, we used to tease
No more books about smart ways
To gently guide one’s life with ease

But you will surely want us all
To be in London at this lunch
So, we’ll honour our dear Pram’s call
As we are still a united bunch!

Suren Iyer is someone we’ll all remember as one of our nicest batch mates, always pleasant, always helpful, never intrusive and a wonderful friend to have. This is what I remember as a batch mate of his. To meet him many years later has been a wonderful experience. And now he is gone. It was so sudden so unexpected that we are all heart broken. We wish his wife and family the best that life can offer and may they know that the whole batch holds Suren in the highest esteem.


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Old friends meet in London

Two Old Wesleyites who were both in our batch (ND and Indra), had a rendezvous at Oxford Street in London during Indra Anandasabapathy's brief visit there. A few pictures from that happy meeting.

Nihal Amerasekera and Indra Anandasabapathy

After Fifty Years by Nihal D. Amerasekera

Indra and I hail from that great institution on Baseline Road in full view of the Welikada Prison. We were berated by our teachers that if we don’t tread the straight and narrow pathwe may end-up in the ‘hotel’ in front of our gates.Despite the generous offer of free food and lodging in the ‘hotel’ opposite we managed to find gainful employment in a more salubrious place not too far fromthe noise and grime of Punchi Borella. Perhaps we missed out meeting some of the illustrious and colourful characters that walked the corridors of that ‘infamous hotel’.

Indra was always a clever, quiet and studious guy who avoided the rough and tumble. Despite the dirt and stains of the laboratory practicals he managed to always be dressed immaculately in a brilliant white unstained shirt and trouser. The creases on his well ironed trousers were strikingly sharp and could slice a loaf of bread. He maintained this sartorial elegance all through medical school. Who could forget his skill in identifying the carpal bones while they were still in his pocket!!

We have kept in touch on ‘Facetime’ over the years seeing ourselves grow older and wiser. Sometimes from Florida and at other time from his house in Staten Island we have talked in all weathers. It is such a pleasure to speak with Indra. I was thrilled when he said he was visiting London and we decided to meet in Busaba off Oxford Street. It was indeed a great pleasure to meet Rani for the first time. In the past I only knew her as the creator of those wonderful paintings and the passionate gardener who maintained an immaculate garden, indoors and out.The photos of their plantsin the blog gave us such great pleasure. They have a tremendous love of nature and wildlife. Rani’s kindness and pleasant friendly manner made it a wonderful meeting. We then proceeded to an Italian Coffee shop when Indra and Rani had Devonshire Scones with clotted cream with the coffee. The conversation continued from international politics, to Sri Lankan cricket and our lives in retirement.

In the middle two photos it seems like I am planning to raid the cashier’s till behind me!! It may have crossed my mind. Frommy pose and demeanour in those photos you may have thought that I dominated the conversation. Nothing could be further from the truth. Indra still maintains the careful precision of an anaesthetist waiting to wake us up. Although measured, Indra is a fine raconteur and helped us enormously to reconnect and recall those great years at school and the Faculty. It was amazing that we remembered so much despite the years. The enchantment of those years in old Ceylon still seem to haunt us.

Both Rani and Indra are kind and considerate and it was hard for me to say goodbye.The tears welled up in my eyes as I hugged them.As I write this note, their generous invitation to visit their home still rings in my ears.What struck me most about Rani and Indra was theiramiable honesty and their modesty despite their many achievements. I wish them both good health and happiness in the months and years to come. May we have the good fortune to meet again.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

More on Birthdays

What prompted me to write this brief article was the series of comments following the publication of Sarva's official Obituary.

When I compiled the Batch Directory, I had to leave out the dates of birth for obvious reasons. Firstly, you will recall that I got your consent before placing the information in the public domain. Some gave their consent and some did not. That explains why there are so many gaps, missing information etc. Moreover, I had to restrict such information to a bare minimum due to lack of space.
But it is a pity that all members are not making use of it. I get so many e-mails and telephone calls to get members' contact information. That is okay and I always oblige. But what you can do is to archive the document for future reference. I always try to update it whenever new information comes in. In fact, I will shortly post the updated Directory on this blog's "Latest News" section. All you have to do then will be to look it up on the blog.

Going back to the subject proper now that it has been opened up (particularly the discussion on who the youngest in the batch is) I shall try to write a few words. I must confess at the outset that this information may not be accurate and I am recalling from memory what I know. As in any medical batch, we had members whose dates of birth ranged from 1936 to 1944. Those who were born in 1944 are obviously the youngest. I can count them based purely on information that falls into my lap: Mahendra Gonsalkorale, Suriyakanthi Karunaratne Amarasekera, Srianee Dias Fernando, Virginia Swan de Vos, Manohari Navaratnarajah Shanmuganathan, Ravi Nadarajah, Padmini Karunanayake Wijeratne. I doubt very much that Vedavanam was born in 1944. I think it was 1943.

In my opinion, I must also add that being born in the 1930s is nothing to be ashamed of. It shows their perseverance, dedication and determination to enter the medical profession. I know of some who had no choice but to seek employment for a short period prior to embarking on a medical career because their families simply could not afford to put them through medical school. On the contrary, such individuals should be admired and cheered all the way.

I was born at the tail end of 1941 and I wish to explain very briefly why I happen to belong to the middle categories. I had already lost three solid years when I finally entered the Medical Faculty along with you all in June 1962. Until December 1956, I had breezed through all exams. But I failed to get five credits at one and the same examination which was the December 1956 Senior School Certificate (SSC) exam. That was also the last batch of students whose medium of instruction in all schools was compulsorily English. We had to do mathematics, all science subjects and even Buddhism in English.

According to prevailing rules, students could still continue in the bio stream (or incorrectly termed "medicine") if he or she managed to get four credits and get the fifth at a subsequent exam. I got the required five credits at the very next exam which was held in July 1957, but by then, I had already lost an year. Thus, I ended up in the HSC (Lower VI) in January 1958 to prepare for the University Entrance exam in December 1959. Further disaster was to follow because I got passes only in Botany and Zoology. Another year was lost! I repeated the exam in December 1960, but only to follow the so called 6 months course at the Science Faculty starting June 1961. Incidentally, the six months course that we followed was to be the last. All successful candidates  were admitted "Direct" to the Medical Faculty from June 1963. By that time I had lost three years. Had I passed all examinations in one shot, I would have graduated in March 1964.

During our time as medical students from 1962 to 1967, there were many 21st birthday parties, especially those of females. Carefully screened "boys" were invited  to some of these parties, but they were attended mainly by close friends of the birthday girl concerned. Although I did not attend any of these parties, my bosom pal Sunil Abeysuriya used to give me a ball by ball commentary of the event because his sister Sura attended most of them. That way, I was always kept updated with the latest gossip and so called inside stories circulating in the batch.

Now dear friends, I have a feeling that you have been itching to say something while reading through the above article. So, now you have the opportunity to make unlimited comments in the appropriate place.

Friday, June 1, 2018

To be read with the post on Remembrance Day

Sent in by Kumar Gunawardene

About the poet: Mary Elizabeth Frye was an American housewife and florist, best known as the author of the poem Do not stand at my grave and weep, written in 1932. She was born in Dayton, Ohio, United States, and was orphaned at the age of three.

    Do not stand at my grave and weep;
    I am not there. I do not sleep.

    I am a thousand winds that blow.
    I am the diamond glint on snow.
    I am the sun on ripened grain.
    I am the gentle Autumn rain.

    When you awake in the morning hush,
    I am the swift, uplifting rush
    Of quiet birds in circling flight.
    I am the soft starlight at night.

    Do not stand at my grave and cry;
    I am not there. I did not die.