soul enriching Thangka paintings
is no real comparison
to an authentic Thangka, a Nepalese friend said once. What my
friend, a Buddhist Newari from Katmandu meant was that it was
impossible to compare a Thangka painting to any other, given
its spiritual value, as adornment and even as a unique form of
art practiced by a select group of Buddhist monks and now by
their lay students.
short, a Thangka is spiritual art. One dating back to 11th
Century AD and beyond.
Sri Lankan, and inexposed to the Thangka culture, it was just
a year ago that my curiosity was whetted by the diversity of
Thanga art in congested Thamel, a buzzling township within
walking distance of Katmandu.
the many traditional craft Katmandu boasts of, what is valued
the highest in terms of spirituality and artistry are the
Thangkas. "You will have to just accept it. To
practitioners of Mahayana and tantric Buddhism, it is a sacred
symbol," explained Rajendra Shakya, who introduced me to
this amazing form of art.
Thamel we discovered one of the biggest Thangka dealers, a
treasure trove of sorts. There were many versions of the most
famous of Thangkas, ranging from a six foot tall giant Golden
Buddha, the very symbol of Vajrayana Buddhism, the 1000-armed
Avalokiteshvara, 21 Taras, Shakyamuni Buddha, Tree of Life,
Birth and Rebirth or Kalachakra and the most famous,
to writings by Dr. Bimal Verma, Thangka paintings are regarded
as sacred by the Buddhist world and represent largely, an
overview of Buddhism. First, the Thangkas were created as a
representation of the power or attribute of a single central
deity or to illustrate the life of Lord Buddha and other major
Verma says, "Thangkas are commissioned, worshipped, kept
the store down Thamel, known as the Thangka Art Centre, I was
being quickly introduced to Tibetan, Newari and Japanese
Thangka paintings. "We try to adhere to the original
designs and colour schemes used by the monks who developed
this as a meditative art form," explained a salesman
as a pioneer manufacturer, wholesaler and distributor of the
finest Thangka art in Nepal, the old art centre founded by
Babu Lama was swarming with tourists of all types. Besides the
art they enjoyed being introduced to the entire Thangka
culture and being told that a visit to Nepal was never
complete unless one came to possess a Thangka.
part of the legend here is the owner himself. Babu Lama is
respected throughout the country for the originality of the
work he sells. During his 71 years of experience in art, he
has been awarded for his contribution to the fostering of the
are told, that original monks, very creative ones at that,
were the only painters who undertook to produce Thangkas. Even
today, monasteries have painter monks who excel in their work.
are painted, printed, embroidered on brocade and silk or even
occasionally woven like tapestries.
also come in different sizes but conform to a regular shape.
The smaller Thangkas are meant for homes as symbolic art to
ward off evil and disease. The large ones are meant for
religious festivals. The Lamas who consider them to be
'reverential art' also use Thangkas for religious education
paintings are also commissioned. The patron can instruct the
painter precisely what deity or deities should be included in
Thangkas have limited scope. The rules and traditions are such
that the religious significance cannot be compromised in any
way. The originality of a painter is largely confined to the
decorative parts such as borders and colour combinations.
is a Thangka in most Buddhist/Hindu homes considered an
precious art form
Khadka, a Newari Hindu tells me "Thangkas transcended
religious confines." Khadka says, "They are a
precious art form to both Buddhists and Hindus. Many beliefs
are associated with them. It is also not like having the
regular Buddha or the Shiva statue. The Vajrayana Buddhism
practiced here provides for a convergence of faiths, and
Thangkas are a common symbol of spirituality."
art dealers add, "The valley allows Buddhist and Hindu
philosophies and the pantheons to converge. Above all, these
paintings are a contemplative experience for the enrichment of
after an arduous climb to the Maha Buddha temple, I remembered
what my friend told me about one's visit to Nepal never being
complete without a Thangka. While descending, I managed to
purchase my very first Thangka, a relatively inexpensive
printed Thangka of the Golden Buddha.
may not mean all those things it represents to the people of
the Katmandu Valley. But I do know it is precious, and enjoy
the serenity the image evokes. And so I cherish my single
Thangka and consider my visit to Nepal complete.
is a Thangka
piece of Tibetan art work depicting various
of Buddhism. Generally painted on silk, brocade or
cotton fabric using bright or luminous colours, it is of
exceptional quality, hand-painted by Nepali and Tibetan
word 'thangka' is derived from the Tibetan word 'thang
yig' meaning a written record. Used as wall decorations
at homes and worshipful matter in places of religious
worship, for Lamas and many others it is an object of
religious importance. To the followers of Mahayana and
esoteric Buddhism too, it is an object of devotion, an
aid to spiritual practice, and a bringer of blessings.
the basis of techniques involved and materials used,
Thangkas are classified into two broad categories:
painted (called bris-than in Tibetan) and made of silk
either by weaving or with embroidery (called gos-than).
They are further divided into five categories according
to the background colour, with those with a gold
background being the most expensive.
of Thangka art
exact time or the origin of Thangka art
history of Thangka art paintings in Nepal commenced in
11th Century A.D when Buddhists and Hindus began
illustrating their pantheon of gods.
Tibetan and Chinese influence in Nepalese paintings is
quite evident in Paubhas (Thangkas). They fall into two
categories - illustrative paintings or the Palas and the
mystic diagram paintings with complex text with each
circle and square having a specific meaning, known as
trials and travails of public transport
quite like public transport in this country - from the CTB
buses to the intercity `air-conditioned luxuries,' or the
trains that chug along on the railways. Each offers a unique
experience to any unsuspecting traveller.
have learned that going to Kandy in an intercity bus in the
late morning is
not the wisest of moves. Unless of course you are willing to
put up with whatever seat is available like those at the rear
of the bus, or one of those jump seats as they are called and
unfold in the middle of the isle - a sure way of developing
premature back problems.
rides and 'beach boys'
a train ride by yourself is not a pleasant experience either.
Invariably you would be leered at by teenage beach boys. I
refer to them all as beach boys even though they may hail from
just about anywhere. You cannot miss them - clad in bright
coloured slippers and tee shirts with prints that catch their
fancy, Eminem for
example, some with Bob Marley style braided hair and Jamaican
arm band walking up and down the isle just to stare at you,
and if they are lucky enough, grab any part of you while you
is a dilemma most females taking public transport face, to sit
by the window seat and be squeezed against the side of the bus
by the person who occupies the other half of the seat, or to
sit by the aisle and be 'accidentally' felt by many.
here is one of the many measures I adopt when travelling long
distance in public transport. I get a single seat or the
window seat, or be prepared to be packed in between two people
if the seat can accommodate three passengers.
face it, everyone living in this tropical paradise island of
ours know people who have to deal with over crowded buses and
trains, people treading on toes, being jostled about, and even
groped or pick pocketed in the process. It has become a way of
life. Officials moan that there are not enough buses, or
complain of the lack of funds to improve the infrastructure -
whatever, we have heard it all before and we have no choice
but to live with it.
what boggles the mind is the intercity buses, the so-called
air-conditioned buses that offer 'luxury.' This is a tale of
not my personal experiences but one of observing many a
traveller who has to put up with the 'luxuries.'
ticket to Kandy will cost you approximately Rs. 185, for which
one needs to scramble to get a good seat before it is taken by
another passenger. You will also get entertainment courtesy
the squeaky speakers that blare loud music, most of which is
cheesy English songs that have Sinhala lyrics. As your limbs
get numb and your headache begins to soar the intercity bus
will continue on the bumpy road, en route filling the bus with
more passengers until you find that the simple act of
breathing becomes a little difficult due to lack of air, and
sometimes with the air conditioner that has also stopped
working. But this would be the least of your worries.
is a typical situation. Being sandwiched between a rather
large man in a white sarong and white shirt - almost
politician like, on my left, with his mobile phone that
constantly rings to a Mission Impossible ring tone and the
sound of a baby giggling when he gets an SMS can be more than
a tad disturbing - the baby giggling, I mean, not the Mission
Impossible ring tone.
on my right is a younger man eating grapes and spitting the
seeds back into the little paper bag holding the
grapes, and just
barely making it. And who do we have the pleasure of sitting
in front of us but a man with inch long fingernails and a
then someone gets in halfway with a sack of fruit or
vegetables that is as big as him, and plants himself between
me and the grape seed spitting man. Five minutes later he is
dozing off on me, oblivious to my elbows nudging him. Oh! and
then there is the monster in the form of a kid somewhere in
the bus who wails and screams until it runs out of energy or
attention, failing which, it will just wail and scream the
only joy I had on this journey was observing an old, short,
grubby looking man falling asleep on a younger man much to his
dismay. It gave
me some satisfaction that I was not the only one suffering.
by the way was an intercity 'luxury' bus ride on a good day.
And for those of you who have not had the pleasure of
experiencing any form of public transport in the country, let
us just say you are very lucky indeed and you do not want to
know what it is like at all, on a good day or on a bad
life, quick service
today is simply a process of rushing
to work, rushing back home, rushing to do this or rushing to do
that. Most of what we have to do we do by adopting the
easiest, the most convenient and least time consuming method.
through the local newspapers you will see a large number of
advertisements that offer a range of services in just a few
hours that enticingly says that life would be much more easy
and convenient courtesy these services.
of the services guarantee you a fast laundry service and fast
for instance photography - many labs undertake to print your
pictures in one hour. Be it an entire role of film or just a
few shots for a passport, the pictures will be ready the same
day. You do have to pay extra for this service but many people
are willing to do so because one can avoid the hassle of going
another day to collect the prints.
the laundry services offer fresh laundered clothes in 24
to bags and shoes, and tailoring clothes are promptly done so
that the customers do not have to take much time off from
their jobs to get things done, and everyone is happy with the
wide range of fast foods available is also a boon to many
working couples as it gives them more time to spend with the
family as well as indulge in leisure acitivites. In view of
the rising cost of electricity and gas, it seems a better
option to buy food from the many outlets
when one takes into consideration the time spent and
the cost of cooking at home.
curries that only require heating are available in the
ready-to-eat range of processed foods. Vegetables that are cut
up and packeted, and fruit salads, chutneys and pickles are
also available in supermarkets.
only western food but a wide range of local dishes as well as
other delicacies are also on offer.
hoppers, various types of rottis, pittu,
fish, beef and chicken curry, mallungs and special
delicacies are on sale.
occasions catered for
special occasions the supermarkets, bakeries and restaurants
have dishes catering to that event on sale. This makes it
convenient to those celebrating those special occasions to
spend more time with family and guests as against having to
spend hours in the kitchen preparing food for the occasion.
Many of these outlets sell food that are as good as the food
prepared at home.
the personal side, many of the beauty salons that have opened
offer a range of personalised beauty treatment in a matter of
example, manicures and pedicures are available in the nail
bars that have now opened in major cities where a client can
just walk in and have the nails done in a few minutes.
at your fingertips
facials are available in ready- made packs. One has to only
buy a tube of what one needs, apply it on the face and after
it dries, peel it off. And presto! you have had a pricey
facial at home. And the results are as good as a facial that
you may get at a salon.
electronic media too advertises many products that are readily
available to make life easy for those on the fast lane.
and manufacturers have begun to cater to those leading fast
lives, those who work long hours, those who simply may not
want to spend time labouring in the kitchen - because at the
end of the day everybody stands to gain. The producer, the
manufacturer and the customer.
of 1962 - On completing 40 years as doctors
touching medical history
frolics at the Law-Medical match extending
into the Trinity-Royal cricket match in 1963
(1962) was a significant year in the history of medical
education in Sri Lanka. The second Medical Faculty of the
University of Ceylon was established that year in Peradeniya.
Since then, Medical Faculties have sprung up in Ruhuna, Jaffna,
Kelaniya and Sri Jayewardenepura. I am told there is one in
Rajarata as well!
like the debate on which school is the best of them all, it
still rages on with regard to which medical school is the best
of them all. The writer being a product of the Colombo Medical
Faculty, it is but natural that some bias might creep in here.
But the fact remains that for no other reason but the 137
year-old history and tradition that it boasts of, the Colombo
Medical College just has to be the best!
away from lighthearted banter, my more serious intention here
in this article is to give a pen-sketch of a batch of students
who gained admission to this prestigious medical school in
graduated in 1967, this batch will be completing 40 years this
year as Western qualified (allopathic) medical doctors (not to
be confused with the numerous other types of 'doctors' in Sri
Lanka today!). Perhaps, a better title for this article would
have been - "Colombo medical students of the 1962-67 era
- where are they now?"
keep peace with my medical colleagues who are products of much
younger medical schools, let me state here that this is
certainly not aimed at bolstering the image of the Colombo
Medical Faculty at the expense of the others. No further
effort is needed in that direction! Greater mortals than me
have written volumes about this prestigious institution in the
past, and the pivotal position that the Colombo Medical
Faculty now enjoys cannot easily be challenged.
a large batch of over 150 students, it is well nigh impossible
to mention the names of all my batch mates in this article.
Therefore, let me at the outset, extend my humble apologies to
those whose names I have failed to mention here. Yet, I must
emphatically state that at least in my mind, each and every
member of that great batch of 1962, wherever he or she might
be, is held in the highest esteem.
talking about the golayas, it is nothing but right that I pen
a few lines about our 'gurus' first. We learned the finer art
of healing the sick under the healing hands of such eminent
teachers as Professors O.E.R. Abhayaratne
(fondly called 'Pachaya'), A.C.E. Koch, M.J. Waas,
A.A. Hoover, S.R. Kottegoda, G.H. Cooray, H.V.J.
Fernando, A.D. Chapman, A.S. Dissanaike, K. Rajasuriya, D.A.
Ranasinghe, Milroy Paul, R.A. Navaratne, C.C. de Silva,
Priyani Soysa ably assisted by N.D.W. Lionel, Valentine
Basnayake, Carlo Fonseka, Lester Jayawardene, Sobitha
Pandithratne, Daphne Attygalle, Mrs. Yoganathan,
W.J. Gomes, Nandadasa
Kodagoda, Earle de Fonseka, A. Sinnethamby, T.
Visvanathan, M.C. Karunairatnam, and Oliver Peiris. We
'clerked' under the giant clinicians of the day like P.R.
Anthonis, L.D.C. Austin, D.F.de S. Gunawardene, Misso Niles,
K.G. Jayasekara, Noel Bartholomeuz, E.C.J. Rustomjee, D.J.
Attygalle, R.P. Jayewardene, W.Wijenaike, Oliver Medonza, R.S.
Thanabalasunderam, Ernie Peiris, Stella de Silva, Stanley de
Silva, Hamza, Hunt, E.H. Mirando, P.R. Walpita, G.N. Perera,
the two Rasanayagams (ENT 'Rasa' and Orthopaedic 'Rasa'),
Arulpragasam, Francis Silva, Rienzie Peiris, Deva Adithya, Sri
Skandarajah, Thamber, Pararajasegaram, Sivasubramaniam, Lucas,
Ponnambalam, Shelton Cabraal, Darrel Weinman, J.R. Wilson, and
a handful of them are living today. But their dedication to
teaching and memories of all the long hours they spent with
medical students and patients in the wards will always be
naming the batch mates, I wish to start with those nine
colleagues who departed this world at a relatively early age.
Sunil (SR) de Silva, my dear friend and billiards partner in
the men's common room, was the son of former Vice Chancellor
of the University of Ceylon, Walwin A. de Silva, and brother
of well known journalist Manik de Silva.
who worked for the US Air Force as a surgeon was tragically
killed in Florida when his car was hit by a drunk driver. The
doctor couple Russel Paul and Dawne de Silva, together with
their two children died under very tragic circumstances in
Pennsylvania. Karalapillai Sundarampillai who had his medical
practice in Kotahena also met with his death in bizarre
fashion when a flying galvanised roofing sheet hit him during
a heavy thunderstorm.
Royal College cricketer Kiththa Wimalaratne drowned in his own
backyard swimming pool. Bernard Randeniya was the Director of
the Cancer Institute at Maharagama at the time of his death.
of the most distinguished of the lot was Professor Niriellage
Chandrasiri who was Vice Chancellor of the Ruhuna University
and Professor in Forensic Medicine at the Ruhuna Medical
Faculty. More recently, Tudor Wickramarachchi and 'Bobby'
Somasundaram died in the United Kingdom where they were
a problem of unemployment looming at the time we graduated,
the '60s and '70s saw a massive exodus of doctors from Sri
Lanka to other countries. My batch was one of the worst
affected. The majority of those who emigrated settled down in
the US while others went to the UK, Australia and New Zealand.
few who opted to remain in their homeland however, shone in
their chosen specialties. Readers of Sri Lankan newspapers
will naturally find their names more familiar than those who
made names for themselves in foreign lands.
to serve Mother Lanka
Lamabadusuriya who topped the batch in the final examination
of March 1967 is today a well-known paediatrician having held
office as Dean of the Colombo Medical Faculty and Professor in
Paediatrics. He was awarded the MBE by her Majesty Queen
Elizabeth II in 1991, in recognition of his contribution to
the Sri Lankan Cleft Lip and Palate Project of which he was a
co-director together with Dr. Michael Mars - a rare honour for
a Sri Lankan based in Sri Lanka.
Jayatilake was the first fully qualified Oncologist in Sri
Lanka. R.S. (Revo) Drahaman is a much sought after
otolaryngologist (ENT Surgeon), M.H.S. Cassim ('Cassa'),
Chirasri Mallawarachchi (Jayaweera Bandara), Zita Perera (Subasinghe)
and J.G. Wijetunga are Ophthalmologists.
(Lucian ) Perera is a general surgeon. Nithya Jayawickrama
specialised in obstetrics and gynaecology. Lalantha
Amarasinghe specialised in cosmetic surgery and was in charge
of the Burns Unit in the General Hospital. Suriyakanthi
Karunaratne (Amerasekara) is senior consultant
anaesthesiologist at the Sri Jayewardenepura Hospital, and a
past president of the Sri Lanka Medical Association.
Rajapaksa and W. Rajasooriar are also in the same speciality.
Puwan Ramalingam (Sivananthan) is a rheumatologist. Chanaka
Wijesekara is an orthopaedic surgeon. Among the academics are
Manel Ratnavibhushana (Wijesundara) who is Professor in
Parasitology at the Peradeniya Medical Faculty and Lalani
Seebert (Rajapaksa) who is Associate Professor in Community
Medicine at the Colombo Medical Faculty.
time champion public schools athlete J.C. Fernando who
excelled in the 440 yards event, is a general practitioner who
has maintained his youthful looks and athletic figure to this
day. He is married to Surangani Abeysuriya (Fernando) who was
also in our batch. H.N. Wickramasinghe, Ranjit Bulathsinghala,
Tilak Dayaratne, V. Ganeshan, Ananda Hettiarachchi, Roshnara
de Zoysa (Gunaratne) are general practitioners in different
parts of Sri Lanka.
Morawaka Wijewardene (Weeratunga) retired as the Chief Medical
Officer of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority. Among the General
Physicians, Harsha Samarajeewa is one of the few in the batch
(like Nitya Jayawickrama) who decided to return home after
specialisation and a long stint abroad. Harsha is one of the
many cricketers in my batch who had played first eleven
cricket when in school.
medical students of that era excelled in sports and some of
them even reached national level. More of that later! Other
general physicians produced by the batch and presently in Sri
Lanka include Chandra Silva and
Kusuma Jayasuriya (Ruberu). The latter being the sister
of the famous Olympic boxers HP and CP, the boys never tried
their usual pranks on her!
the few in the 1962 batch who opted to remain and serve our
motherland for a long period, as many as four chose the less
glamorous and less lucrative field of public health for
specialisation. These community physicians went into different
Fernando is a malariologist who rose to be director of the
Anti Malaria Campaign. Wimala Soysa (Jayakuru) created history
as Sri Lanka's first woman Chief Epidemiologist. S.A.P.
Gnanissara was a medical administrator who retired a few years
ago as Deputy Director General of Health Services (Training
and Research) in the Ministry of Health. The author of this
article was among the first (and also the last) five Sri
Lankan medical doctors to be sent to the United States in 1974
on WHO Fellowships to specialise in health education.
the writer himself is presently employed by the state
government in South Carolina, USA, he has worked for 33 years
in Sri Lanka and other developing countries, first with Sri
Lanka's Health Ministry and later in UN organisations (WHO and
Kuruppu started out as a community physician (MOH) but went
into private practice as a family physician later on. Though
based in London for most part of her career, Pramilla
Kannangara (Senanayake) fits in here as a distinguished public
health physician who continues to raise funds and runs a
project to educate poor children in the fishing villages of
Southern Sri Lanka. As the Assistant Director General of the
International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) she had
responsibility not only for medical programmes but also for
IPPF's AIDS, Safe Motherhood and Youth and Adolescent
was awarded an honorary FACOG in 2006 for her work in family
planning. Sriyani Dissanayake (Basnayake) who has made a name
for herself as Sri Lanka's leading sex educator, was the
medical director of the Family Planning Association of Sri
Lanka. Engaged in the same field of Family Planning is Priya
Gunaratne (De Silva).
is also interesting to note that two females in the batch
acquired surnames that are more familiar to Sri Lankans than
their own maiden names. I refer here to Vasantha Owitigala
(Jayasuriya) whose husband is none other than the Minister of
Public Administration and Home Affairs in the present
a more personal note, I must also mention that I had the
privilege of being classmates of both the husband and wife at
different times. While Vasantha was in my batch in Medical
College, Karu was my classmate in Form II B at Ananda College
in 1953 when another former Minister S.K.K. Suriarachchi was
our class master. Swyrie Jayasekara (Balendra) married one of
Sri Lanka's most successful businessmen and former chairman of
John Keells, Ken Balendra. Swyrie has always been in the
forefront in organising batch reunions. No wonder then that
the venue of our Batch Reunion this year was The Cinnamon
Lodge in Habarana!
Sri Lankan doctors migrated to the United States in droves in
the late '60s and early '70s, one particular hospital in Coney
Island, New York had so many Sri Lankans working there that it
was almost like walking along the corridors of the General
Hospital in Colombo. Most of them have since then moved out
into other states.
mentioned earlier, we had many outstanding sportsmen in our
batch. Long before Muralitharan became a household name,
Lareef Idroos was Sri Lanka's ace spin bowler who played for
S. Thomas' College, Mount Lavinia (as captain), SSC and
University of Ceylon and also represented the country with
distinction before we gained test status.
who is a nephrologist is now domiciled in California along
with former Benedictine cricketer Cyril Ernest (cardiologist)
who also played for the University and represented All-Ceylon.
Lareef and Cyril had the unique distinction of representing
two countries in cricket at the highest level when both of
them were selected to represent USA. Additionally, Cyril
played in the USA team that participated in the World Cup in
such a large community of Sri Lankans in California, one would
expect many of the batch to be settled there. Apart from those
mentioned earlier, Nalin Nanayakkara (obstetrician and
gynaecologist), Piyaseeli Dolawatte (De Silva), R.
Wickramasekaran (cardiologist), R. Nadarajah (surgeon), M.Z.
Lameer (orthopaedist), P. (Pupa) Sivananda, Chittamparanathan
Thiagarajah (anaesthesiologist) are some of the others in
Gunatilaka is a Pulmanologist and critical care specialist in
San Jose. N.
Visveshwara who is a neonatologist in Fresno, California, is
credited with the invention of an innovative catheter that
relates to cardiac output and matching of
ventilation/perfusion in newborns. He has also designed a
paediatric ventilator and donated one through his Rotary Club
to the Neonatal Unit of Sri Lanka's Castle Street Hospital for
Ambrose who is resident in Los Angeles, lost his beloved wife
Beulah and daughter Orlantha in the 2004 tsunami while on
holiday in Sri Lanka. Orlantha was a trained classical
violinist and was actively engaged in teaching music to poor,
rural children in Sri Lanka at the time of her tragic death.
Jayanetti who played rugby for Royal and the university, is
now an obstetrician and gynaecologist in Virginia. Of all my
batch mates based in the US, my closest 'neighbours' are Lucky
Weerasuriya and A. Satchithananda, both of whom now lead a
quiet life in retirement in Florida. Bandula Jayasekara is
still in active practice as a psychiatrist in Kentucky.
Wijesuriya is in the same state working in infectious
diseases. So is K.L.M.T. (Mahasen) de Silva (psychiatrist), S.
Sarvanandan (psychiatrist) in Michigan, Ananda de Silva in
Missouri, Sisira Ranasinghe (pathologist) in Ohio, Eugene
Anandappa (paediatric radiologist) and Bertram Nanayakkara (paediatrician)
in Illinois, Sriyani (Bunter) Fernando and Navam Chinniah in
Connecticut, T. Yoganathan and Mahesan Richards (both
anaesthesiologists) and S. Sri Kantha (pain specialist) in New
Jersey, Indra Anandasabapathy (associate director of
anaesthesiology at Staten Island University Hospital) and S.
Sathanandan in New York, C. Maheswaran (obstetrician and
gynaecologist) also in Florida, are the others in the northern
and eastern parts of the US.
Perera, S. Balachandran (Yankee Bala) and Ranjan Hulugalle
(oncologist) are also in the US. Sujatha Maligaspe (Lena) is
being a British colony at one time, and registration in the
General Medical Council being much easier than passing more
exams to get a foothold in the US, one would expect more from
the batch to have ended up there. But that has not been the
few have chosen England as their adopted country. Among names
that come to my mind are Suren Iyer, Sunil Abeysuriya, Nihal
Amerasekara (radiologist), K. Balachandra (Con Bala), S. Sri
Kantha, Nihal Goonetilake, B.L. Perera, A.H.T. Sumathipala,
D.S.C. Attale (psychiatrist), Douglas Mulgirigama, Ranjith
Kariyawasam, Razaque Ahamath, Harischandra Boralessa, Mahendra
Gonsalkorala, Ranjith Dambawinne, P.V.D. Saparamadu, Anandan
Jayaratnam, N. Balakumar, M. Viswanathan, A.F. Doss, S.
Vedavanam, L.P.J.M. Wickramasinghe, Jimmy Wickramasinghe,
Manel Hettiarachchi (Katugampola), Asoka ("Lubber")
Wijekoon and S.R.
Kunasingham who was an outstanding soccer player took to
hockey during his university days and went on to represent
Ceylon as the goal keeper. Rohini Abhayaratne (better known as
"Pachaya's daughter"), who is also in the UK is the
daughter of the Dean of the Medical Faculty of that era.
Another "batch couple" - Upali Wijeratne and wife
Padmini Karunanayake are also there. One of Sri Lanka's
leading tennis players of a bygone era - Ranjan Wattegedera is
also settled in the UK.
and New Zealand
has had her fair share from the batch. Kumar Gunawardene
(cardiologist) was recently honoured by the American College
of Cardiologists. Lakshman Jayasinghe who started out as a
neuroradiologist now practices in neuroradiology,
interventional radiology and nuclear medicine. Sanath de
Tissera (psychiatrist), Easwaran Kanapathipillai, Irwin Herath,
Cecil Saverimuttu, Kamini Goonewardene (Ferdinando) and
General Physician Kamala Nimalasuria (De Silva) are among the
others Down Under.
Swan (De Vos) who was an outstanding swimmer as a teenager is
also in Australia. Malik Jaimon, Mahendra Collure, M.
Rasanathan and Nisha Mallawarachchi (Jayasinghe) are in New
as the father of a more famous son, Rajan (Patas) Ratnesar
deserves special mention. Son Romesh Ratnesar is today an
internationally known journalist who is a regular contributor
to the Time magazine. Patas is medical director of a major
batch was somewhat unique in that we were subjected to a
second rag (in addition to the traditional freshers' rag
during the first fortnight) by our seniors when we were well
into our second year in medical school. As if that punishment
was not enough, almost all the males in the batch were
suspended for two weeks and fined Rs.10 by the University's
Board of Residence and Discipline.
was the time when Vice Chancellor Sir Nicholas Attygalle
managed university affairs with an iron fist. What was the
offence? one might ask. Traditionally, it is the most junior
medical students who play a prominent role with their high
spirited fun and frolic during the annual Law-Medical cricket
match, while the seniors sit and enjoy the game in the comfort
of the pavilion.
the Law and Medical Colleges met in their encounter in 1963,
the juniors dressed in black shirts with the skull and cross
bones emblem, paraded the streets of Colombo in an open truck
as usual. However, they somewhat exceeded their limits by
invading the pitch and disrupting play in the Royal-Trinity
inter-school cricket match that was being played at Reid
was not all. The boys also 'visited' Castle Street Girls
School at Borella (presently Devi Balika Vidyalaya) and
'entertained' the schoolgirls who I am sure enjoyed the
proceedings as much as the boys did. As expected, a flood of
complaints followed. After a long drawn out inquiry,
punishment was meted out to those found guilty. The boys
accepting collective responsibility and not resorting to
finger pointing at those who may have 'misbehaved' avoided
probable expulsion of a few students. Punishment was therefore
writer described in more detail the whole incident in an
article entitled "Law Medical '63 and After"
published in the journal of the Medical Students Union in
1963. Was it a particularly mischievous batch? Yes and no. But
then we were all 44 years younger!
Dr. Lakshman Abeyagunawardene
South Carolina, USA
Plaza Buddhist centre
scroll, Ven. Galabodatte Gnanasara
Thero and Chitrananda Gamage who
has had first hand experience
by another name
in Sri Lanka with a
proud history of more than 2550 years is on the verge of
being eroded due to the negligence of the present leaders.
Although the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) gave many pledges to
Buddhists that every step would be taken to prevent
conversions during the run up to the elections, nothing has
been done so far.
is a widely held belief that conversions are carried out
mostly by fundamental Christian organisations but this is not
so. Buddhist sects not of the Theravada order are also guilty
of conversions. One such is the Ruchiren Buddhist Temple
located on the third floor of Liberty Plaza, Colombo 3, which
attracts many young Buddhists who are being converted from
Buddhism was safeguarded by our ancient rulers it is appalling
to note that the present leaders of the country are silent at
a time when conversions are taking place thus endangering
Buddhism in the country.
reneges on pledge
have now arisen as to why the JHU that had pledged to
safeguard Buddhism before entering parliament in 2004, is now
silent on the subject.
has given permission for such an organisation to carry out
conversions openly in the heart of Colombo? Is there a hidden
force behind this? Who is providing protection to the 'temple'
at Liberty Plaza and also its branches at Ratmalana, Narammala,
Galle, Kohuwala, Kirulapona and many other places islandwide?
The Sinhalese lady who runs the loku pansala at Liberty Plaza
claims that the Public Trustee has given permission to operate
a conversion centre. Is this so?" questioned the
Secretary, Jathika Sangha Sabhawa (JSS), Ven. Galabodatte
the demise of the Ven. Gangodawila Soma Thero the Buddhists
rallied round the JHU to elect monks to the legislature
expecting them to introduce the Anti-Conversion Bill that
would prevent illegal conversions. They now say that the JHU
has failed to keep its promises.
Anti-Conversion Bill has been put on hold and there is a great
threat to Buddhism with conversions taking place with state
patronage, alleged Ven. Gnanasara Thero.
Ven. Thero's anger is because
both the JHU monks and their lay leaders are now 'only
interested in making money for themselves through the perks
and privileges they enjoy as parliamentarians and have now
forgotten why they entered parliament in the first place, and
what they promised the Buddhists in the country,' he alleged.
Ruchiren Buddhist Temple which is run by a Japanese lady
called Madam Komatsu and a Sinhalese lady who poses off as an
attorney-at-law, with the patronage of some who call
themselves Japanese priests, do not allow anyone to enter the
centre unless they have membership. Those who want to follow
the 'meditation course' at this temple have to pay Rs. 3500 to
obtain membership after which they receive a rosary (nawaguna
wela). Those who become members have to thereafter practise a
different method of worship and refrain from practising
Theravada Buddhism," said Ven. Galabodatte
to Ven. Gnanasara Thero even Buddhist monks are not allowed to
enter this centre. A fortnight ago, the Thero, with some other
monks and laymen had visited Liberty Plaza to ascertain what
was happening at this centre but the lady who is in charge of
the place had not allowed them entry. "We practise real
Buddhism here. If you want to enter the centre you should
saffron robes, obtain membership and then you are welcome to
the pansala," she had declared.
to this lady their new-found religion does not believe in
worshipping Lord Buddha, the monks, or at the temples. They do
not even recite the stanzas preached by Lord Buddha.
"Lord Buddha was not born in Lumbini, India. He was born
in Japan. Those who follow this method will prosper all their
lives, and in a short span of time attain Bodhisattvahood,"
she had said.
we insisted that we wanted to go in, this lady asked her
assistants to call a Chief Inspector (CI) from the
Presidential Security Division (PSD). We then called the
Liberty Plaza security to intervene and
they called the Kollupitiya Police. When two police
officers came to the scene this lady asked whether they were
from the CI's team," the Ven. Thero told The Sunday
is this CI from the PSD? Is the PSD giving protection to this
centre? Is this happening with the blessings of the
President's office?" queried the Thero.
attempts by The Sunday Leader to contact the Chief Inspector
and Buddhists lived in harmony
the past, Christians lived amicably with Buddhists. They
always helped each other when the need arose. But a certain
sect is now trying to tarnish the good relations that exist
between these two religions and that is why we asked our
leaders to introduce the Anti-Conversion Bill as soon as
possible. Even India, Russia and Switzerland have introduced
anti-conversion bills but our country has so far failed to do
this," lamented Ven. Gnanasara Thero.
The Sunday Leader spoke to Chitrananda Gamage, a member of the
Ven. Soma Thero Foundation who had obtained membership at
the Liberty Plaza pansala to gain first hand
I wanted to get first hand experience of this 'temple,' I
became a member and attended meditation classes. After a few
weeks they brought a small scroll in a golden box and placed
it in my home. They removed all the Buddha statues and
pictures and wanted me to worship this scroll everyday. With
much self-control I allowed the Japanese priests to remove the
Buddha statues but no sooner they left I replaced the statues
and paid homage to the Lord Buddha," said Gamage.
to Gamage these Japanese priests and their local staff
approach poor Buddhist families in remote areas and provide
financial help so as to lure them to the pansala. The pansala
helps the poor in numerous ways to succeed in their membership
drive. Those who run the branches are given all expenses paid
trips to Japan once a year as an incentive to increase the
the run around
National Integration Committee, Dr. Piyasena Dissanayake who
is aware of what is happening at the temple told The Sunday
Leader that he had informed the President no sooner he had
realised the dangers posed by this conversion centre.
"When I told the President about this conversion centre
he asked me to inform his Secretary Lalith Weeratunga.
Weeratunga wanted me to inform the Ministry of Buddhist
Affairs. I wrote to the Director, Buddhist Affairs in May, but
to no avail. Two months have now lapsed but nothing has been
done so far by the relevant authorities," said Dr.
to you Mr. President, conferred with the noble title Rohana
Janaranjana by the Buddha Sasana.
one's way through life
just went for yet another performance of
an old boys choir. I love to listen to voices in harmony. When
I asked the kids whether they wanted to join, they said,
"Oh no! Not another choir! We've had enough." Well,
it's their loss. Harmonising sends thrills and chills through
my veins. In fact, I did a worldwide hunt for this particular
CD with the most exquisite harmony that I wanted, and finally
my sister located it and sent it on to me. Joy!
beings were singing in harmony hundreds of years ago. They
were tribes singing for rainfall, monks in church singing
Gregorian chants or in the American south, whilst they worked
in the cotton fields. In royal courts, madrigals were sung,
i.e. songs of unrequited love or love songs. Sometimes, in
places like pubs and inns they were comic sung verses or about
a lot of practice goes into each song before it is perfected.
The different parts are sung by different timbres of voice.
They usually are soprano, alto, tenor and bass. It's not
everyone who can hold a melody whilst another is being sung
virtually next to you. Even more difficult is
capella singing, where there is no musical
accompaniment. The choir has to maintain the pitch without
technical assistance. I suppose in ancient times, that is how
they would have sung anyway. The choir has to be perfect in
this type of singing as mistakes are clearly accentuated.
in a bullock cart
was in my school choir throughout my school career. We had
excellent singing teachers. We genuinely liked to sing in the
choir, and would never have to be forced to go for our
practices. Sometimes we had to give up our intervals or stay
after school, but we never minded. Once we took part in a
festival at a cathedral and on the way back, some mischievous
girls decided to hitch a ride in a bullock cart up Bullers
our Sr. Principal passed by in a bus and spotted these girls
having the time of their lives. They were severely reprimanded
the next day and given a lecture on "How girls in school
uniform should behave in public." Riding in bullock carts
time we sang modern Christian songs for an educational
festival. It's not surprising that we suddenly burst into one
of these songs to the amazement of our families! I'm sorry to
say my girls got bored with choir since they had to sing
almost the same songs often. It's important to build up a
repertoire or the audience will get bored too. It's also
advantageous to keep up with the times with a young group; a
few upbeat songs would be well received.
it is a very serious business, what with competing and
professionally performing. A famous choir is the Vienna Boys
Choir, which came to perform here a couple of years ago. These
young boys sing like angels. The poor fellows must have been
broiling, since the audience too found it stifling. Choirs
from all over the world attend the Eisteddfod festival in
conductor plays a main role of course by guiding the
performance and choosing the right songs. I'm very happy to
see the younger choirs including contemporary music in their
repertoire. So they aren't labelled 'nerdy,' and don't have to
cave in to peer pressure.
very enjoyable part of my teens was when I was in the youth
choir of our church. Our Mass was attended by most of the
youngsters in the parish. We were lucky to have choir members
from most of the schools in that area. Our conductor was a
very serious minded individual who was older than us. It was
like being in school, we couldn't talk during practices.
young and giggly, we were always in his bad books. We were
lucky to have the very spacious music room of a chorister's
father to practice in. That is not all that we did there, we
also organised parties there and had a good time! Our parents
were very pleased when we informed them we were going for
church choir practice! We made lifelong friends.
the 'old boys' performance, it was announced that the
girlfriends and wives of the choir members were rather
surprised and suspicious that their partners were spending so
much time on an occupation that didn't involve either sports
or alcohol! Good for them!
Honky Tonk Woman
adrift on memory's bliss
you are in the present,
you never dream that this experience you have now will ever be
perceived differently. But you will. You always will.˜
that you think are important in the present eventually end up
being the things you don't quite attach so much importance to
any more, once you look at it through a filter of several
do we colour our actions and our thoughts with emotion and
meaning? Why do we even give such things meaning and expect a)
the assigned meanings and values to remain the same; and b)
ourselves to change with time passing us by? It is not a
wasted cause at all but it does seem rather inefficient in
some way. Inefficiency must be a trait among the species.
don't think I am any different than I was two and a half years
ago but I must be. When I walk back into my room I notice this
because I think along the lines of: "Why didn't I think
to take this or that with me?" or "Why didn't I
think then to do this?"
though I meet people from school who say I haven't changed in
the seven or so years since we all fled those four walls, I
must have. I must have because I found myself going on a
treasure hunt a few nights ago.
over the years
am a rat pack. I keep a lot of things over the years though I
do throw things out. I keep a lot of old notebooks as well.
Because in among the class notes are the little bits and
pieces of my school life that I didn't put so much importance
on. Things like notes I passed back and forth between my
friends and I;
little mini conversations. Or one page full of
something like organic chemistry equations and the next page
over has a scene from a story I was writing at the time.
is an indication of how my mind works, of how strange I must
have seemed to the other kids who once they saw me scribbling
frantically would know that I was writing not my notes but my
don't quite recognise the person I must have been then. It's
me, I know. This
is my face in the photographs, my handwriting, my characters,
my vocabulary - this is me. But it also isn't - not anymore.
didn't like how lonely I felt then though now I see pictures
of what must have been happy times but I think perhaps I
didn't realise it at the time. But then I remember that day
in, day out, was an awful existence in some weird sort of
limbo and the pictures I see only represent a handful of
surprisingly good moments - hence why I kept them. No wonder I
was more interested in writing than organic
chemistry or whatever it was.
recognise parts of me in there too. I am still the person who
will say, "Ok, this year I will keep a regular
diary," and then promptly forget to write in it a few
days later till there are gaps in it that consist of months
and there is always a note at the top of the next entry saying
"Sorry, I haven't written in so long."
I am still the person who will designate certain books
to certain uses: one for class, one for writing and still
scribble dialogue in between essay questions on what antic
am still the person who will buy several different coloured
pens in order to have the kind of "system" for notes
that everyone else has: red for a fact, blue for a question
etc., and end up having it all go downhill a few pages in. I
am still the person who cringes to read anything I have
written that's more than two minutes old.
not just notebooks and photographs. I find myself opening
cupboards to find the remains of what once used to be my
magician's kit and my dance costumes and shoes and shelves of
my favourite books though why I condescended to include H.
Rider Haggard among them back then I cannot honestly tell you.
hate H. Rider Haggard but nonetheless he is on the shelf.
Maybe I just hated him so much I didn't want anyone else to
have to go through the horror of reading him. And so perhaps I
confiscated him from the rest of the world.
found old jewellery boxes with costume chains and earrings
that I remember being given by various people over the years.
I can't think why I didn't take them with me when I moved.
Much the same with what I find in my wardrobe. Why didn't I
take that top with me? I didn't - I can't remember why I did
or didn't do certain things two and half years ago, let alone
seven, but obviously I must have thought differently.
I am growing old and because I don't remember some things I am
discovering them again for the second time. I forgot that
funny bit about what someone did on the class trip. I forgot
the bit about who was dating who. Maybe this is part of what
it means to grow older. This is why you keep these things -
this is how it ends up amusing you later on. You keep
rediscovering it over and over again even as you slowly
did get a shock when I first walked in and discovered that my
bedroom walls seemed to be a completely different shade of
blue/white/light grey. It turned out that they had to repaint
the walls anyway during my absence and no one could remember
what the exact colour was.
maybe I should make an effort to keep a daily diary - just in