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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

50th Anniversary Reunion 2012 - Update

Hello Everyone,
I am pleased to send you this update with more details about the upcoming 50th Anniversary Reunion of our batch.
The Organising Committee met on Wednesday February 22nd and made the following decisions:

Dates: Reconfirmed as August 31, September 1 and 2.

Venue: Hotel Chaaya Tranz (former Coral Gardens now refurbished) in Hikkaduwa.
For more information visit:

http://www.johnkeellshotels.com/Chaayatranz.htm

Hotel Rates:
Rs 17000 nett per day full board (double superior room)
Rs 14750 nett per day full board (single superior room)
Two individuals/singles wishing to share a double room may benefit by paying the double room charge of Rs 17000, as opposed to two singles.

Those who wish to attend should confirm attendance by sending me an e-mail as early as possible, but not later than May 31, 2012. Please also indicate whether you would be accompanied by your spouse/family member/other. You are welcome to request more than one room provided the applicable rate for the extra room is paid.

By the May 31st deadline, we will know the total number attending and will then make the necessary reservations at Chaaya Tranz (you won't have to worry about hotel reservations). Each attendee will have to settle the hotel bill when they check out on Sept 2nd.
Other charges
It is to be noted that the above rates are for room charges and full board from lunch on Friday Aug 1st to breakfast on Sunday Sept 2nd (two days room occupancy). Apart from that, every overseas attendee is expected to pay US $ 70 each. For local attendees, this charge would be Rs 7,000 each. This amount has to be deposited in advance in a special bank account, details of which are as follows:

Bank Name - Nations Trust Bank Plc
Bank Address - No 242 Union Place, Colombo 02, Tel. 2313206
Account No - 006108004340
Currency - LKR
Branch Code - 006
Swift Code - NTBCLKLX
Bank Code - 7162
Remittance in Favour of - Dr. Swyrie Balendra
Remitter's address - No 47/1, Ward Place, Colombo 07

This extra payment is to meet the cost of transport, wine, beer, corkage, soft drinks, chasers, music, photographers, tips etc. This arrangement will ensure that no participant/attendee will have to spend on anything other than personal items such as laundry phone calls etc. during the entire Reunion.

Hard Liquor
Cost of hard liquor is not covered by the extra charge of US $ 70 / Rs 7000. Therefore, voluntary donations of a bottle or more of any of the following would be much appreciated.

Scotch Whiskey (JW Black Label), Gordon’s Dry Gin, Absolut Vodka, Bacardi Rum (white or dark).
Transport
Participants will meet at a spot in Colombo early in the morning on Friday August 31st to leave by coach for Hikkaduwa (exact time and meeting place will be notified later). Donations of hard liquor would be collected as the participants enter the coach after loading their baggage.

Anyone who wishes to come to Chaaya Tranz using their own transport will be free to do so. They should inform the orgnisers in advance.

Academic Program
An academic program in the form of a medical seminar is scheduled for Saturday Sept 1. Any volunteers who wish to make presentations (on any medical topic of your choice) should notify the organisers before a date to be specified later. They will be provided wth details later.

Please make it a point to visit our blog frequently. Click on:
http://colombomedgrads1962.blogspot.com

If you have questions, please feel free to write to me.

Best regards.

Lucky

Lakshman Abeyagunawardene
Secretary, Organising Committee

Thursday, February 23, 2012

First Batch Reunion at Holiday Inn in December 1986

The souvenir that was published in conjunction with the Habarana Reunion in 2007 carried many  pictures from past Reunions. However, you may or may not have seen this group picture from the very first Batch Reunion held at the Holiday Inn in December 1986.


These are other pictures from the 1988 Reunion that was held at Hotel Lanka Oberoi, but were not published in the Habarana Reunion souvenir.




Friday, February 10, 2012

Jerks, Perks and Piles

By Mahendra Gonsalkorala

My Auntie Cedent was really the Boss
To understand why, you may be at a loss
She always preceded my Uncle Jerk
Just like my beloved Auntie, Cipation
But for many, there was no such perk

In Syphilia, Uncle Jerk could disappear completely
But in close by Cord Compressionia surprisingly
Uncle Jerk becomes highly exaggerated and brisk
But sadly his stiff legs made safe walking
Tardy and a matter of considerable risk

Uncle Jerk was in behaviour most reflex
Many were puzzled by a man so complex
His reaction relied on incoming sensation
His response muted or with much exaggeration
Depending on impulse strength and location

Now, Mr Hema Roid the famous surgeon
Specialised in matters affecting the nether Region
Very versatile and talented was he
Equally at home with ligation or injection
As with staples and complete resection

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

When "Home Sweet Home" is Sweeter

            Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,

Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home!

                                                           John Howard Payne, 1823

In the sixties and early seventies, hordes of professionals left the shores of Sri Lanka in search of greener pastures. The majority left for economic reasons and lack of opportunities for professional growth. A significant number of medical doctors who were disillusioned with the way they were treated by high-ups in the Health Ministry Head Office left in disgust. The failed insurrection of 1971 and the state of unrest that followed seemed to justify their decision at least at that time. The “braver” lot weathered the storm and stayed put, come what may.
In the years that followed, the Black July of 1983 accounted for the exodus of most of our Tamil friends who had opted to remain in the country. The long protracted war and violence in all parts of the country including the anarchic situation that prevailed in the South in the late eighties, made sure that others who stayed back too decided to take the plunge from time to time. Although I had never entertained the idea of emigration before, that was the time that I too decided to make use of an opportunity that came my way. The decision was taken purely for personal and family reasons and was not prompted by the incidence of violence in the country. After all, having had a ring-side view of action in the 1971 insurgency when I was stationed in Matara, and in Colombo to witness first hand, the havoc of July ‘83, the devastation caused by bomb explosions in Fort, Pettah, Maradana and elsewhere, and total chaos when the country came to a virtual standstill in the 1988-89 period, I had got used to such unpleasant episodes. When the decision to emigrate to the US was finally made, I did so with the firm resolve of returning home for good some day. The fact that I did just that two years ago proved yet again, my ability to work according to a simple plan that I had drawn up and goals that I had set for myself. Contrary to what others think, it had nothing to do with the end of the war and terrorism in May 2009. The return to what I always considered to be home was planned long before that. That it coincided with the end of terrorism and the dawn of a new era in this country was a mere coincidence.
Turnaround
It is indeed a pleasant task to write about the remarkable turnaround since that important day in the country’s history and the many changes for the better that we are now witnessing in this thrice blessed land. I am not referring only to the all too visible beautification of the City of Colombo and its environs. It is just one integral part of a larger picture that is not so eye-catching. However, let me also emphasize here that I am in no way implying that “everything is fine” in this country and all our problems have been solved. We still have a long way to go if ever we reach that elusive stage. For example, national reconciliation has to be achieved, bribery and corruption have to be eliminated and deterioration of the law and order situation has to be arrested. I am only trying to say that at least some of the common day to day problems and obstacles that irked the migrants of yesteryear have now been solved or removed.
Government Business
A common grouse of those who once proudly claimed that they deserted a sinking ship at the right time was: “It’s so difficult to get any business attended to in government offices or state institutions in Sri Lanka”. When meeting relatives and friends during their brief visits to their home country, these individuals spoke highly of their experiences abroad, particularly about their dealings with the efficient state machinery in those western countries. They lamented that Sri Lankan government employees, especially in the lower rungs, were never in their seats. Even if they were, they were either engrossed in a newspaper, sipping tea, gossiping or simply doing nothing. If you were fortunate enough to get some attention, the so called “public servant” was always rude and displayed that all too well known “couldn’t care less” attitude. While we agree to some extent with these complaining types on all counts, the question I ask is whether such “indictments” are applicable to those behind work desks and manning counters in government offices and institutions today. These poorly paid employees may not have the efficiency and finesse of their western counterparts. But except for isolated cases, there is nothing much to complain about now. This has been my experience during the last couple of years. If proof is needed, just observe what happens when you walk into a Divisional Secretariat office to get the new revenue license for your car. I am reminded of the long hours we spent in winding queues at the Motor traffic Department in Narahenpita some years ago.
Scarcities
A good number who were supposedly leading luxurious lives abroad and who were visiting relatives and friends in Sri Lanka in the late seventies, were those who had left the country in an era of bread queues and extreme scarcities of essential goods. I remember my relatives and friends “on holiday” who were very upset if they had failed to pack a toothbrush, a tube of toothpaste or their favourite brand of soap! Now that conditions here seem to have turned for the better, it is interesting to see the way they act, and hear what they say, during holiday time in Sri Lanka now. The expression on their faces when they walk into a local supermarket now, tells the story. They finally admit that anything and everything is available now in good old Sri Lanka!
Driving on Local Roads
Those who had got used to the disciplined driving on the smoothly paved highways in developed countries always complained of lack of discipline of Sri Lankan drivers and the numerous potholes on our local roads. They keep vowing that they will never ever sit in the driver’s seat and touch the steering wheel of a car here. Why should they, when it is so easy and cheap to get a car with driver on hire or a taxi for their transport needs? But as a person who still drives my own car, I find that there is not only some improvement of our roadways which nobody can deny, but that our drivers are learning to be more disciplined and courteous. It will not happen overnight. So, we have got to be patient. The enforcement of the seat belt law is a step in the right direction to make Sri Lankan roads safer. We remember how reluctant motor cyclists were, to wear crash helmets when they were first introduced. But there is much better compliance now. With the opening of the much awaited Southern Expressway, it is expected that road users will get used to proper use of  lanes and more disciplined driving. Compared to what we saw two decades ago, it is indeed a healthy sign that there are so many lady drivers in a variety of small cars making their presence felt on our roads today. The expat men who refuse to drive here will no doubt be embarrassed, if not impressed. 
Positives and Negatives
The many pluses are too numerous to discuss here in detail. But I must say that telephone breakdowns, power failures, power and water cuts which were so frequent some years ago, are very much less frequent   now. It is difficult to find a beggar on the streets even when we want to give away a food parcel. Not so long ago, the poor souls not only begged on the streets but slept on city pavements and went begging from house to house. We hardly see street children rummaging garbage bins in search of food. Even if there are hungry children still around, they don’t visit the garbage bins any longer. Moreover, with an efficient collection system in place, garbage is not allowed to accumulate and pile up either.
As further evidence of improvements all round, I wish to refer here to what a reader of the Sunday Island had said recently about his experience as a patient in the dermatology ward in the National Hospital. He was pleasantly surprised to find the ward clean and well kept and then goes on to pay a glowing tribute to its doctors and other staff. The past reputation of Colombo’s premier government hospital was not that great.
We have just seen the relatively incident free campaigns of all contesting political parties in the run-up to Phase III of Local Government elections in 2011. Walls and lamp posts that used to be covered with posters during election time, have been spared that insult this time. That the otherwise clean campaign was marred by an isolated shooting incident at the tail end is most unfortunate. The unnecessary deaths resulting from intra-party rivalry directly associated with the present electoral system is even more unfortunate. It’s a pity that such sporadic violence had to spoil the peaceful atmosphere prevailing in the country at present.
Reverse Migration
Despite the few remaining unsolved problems and new emerging problems such as outbreaks of dengue fever, there is an increasing trend for those professionals who left the country in the sixties and seventies to come back home with the return of peace. Not withstanding the mosquito menace and Dengue, some Sri Lankans who have settled down abroad have returned on a permanent basis while others make periodic visits at more frequent intervals. I personally know of many who are now making such visits to their homeland for the first time in decades. Returning on a permanent basis is not an option for some, because of children and grandchildren who are well settled and rooted abroad.
Visa on Arrival
It is true that the government decision to do away with the visa on arrival scheme has not gone down well with some emigrants. Sadly, they were never interested in retaining their Sri Lankan citizenship when they qualified to get citizenship from their country of adoption. I can well understand their feelings when they are compelled to apply for a visa and pay a fee to visit the country of their birth.
Except for a very few who have all but severed connections with their country of birth, the great majority of such expatriates still find that life in Sri Lanka is so very comfortable particularly in their retirement. Having seen and experienced life in arguably the richest country in the world over an extended period, it has been my experience as well. No wonder then that “Home Sweet Home” can be sweeter when one has been away for so long.

Posted by Lakshman Abeyagunawardene
(This appeared in the Sunday Island of 16th October, 2011)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

62 to 67 - A Life Completely Changed. A Student's Lament

Healing soothing calming it seemed
Was my life’s purpose and main stay

   Med school in sixty two, a deceptive gilded doorway
   In my innocent years of 22, from posh C7 boys   
   I’d slip away                
                      

In their eyes, I was invisible,
While I was truly in awe
 Of this strange mix in the crucible,
 Where we’ll spend five years or more

 To most the Block was heavenly bliss
  Not withstanding biochem, anatomy and phys
We sat bemused and enthralled

While Profs Koch, Hoover and Carlo installed
Facts stranger and stronger than fiction,
Blurred but encased in good diction!

Lab experiments in an hour
But can we go first to the tea bar?
Counting money like a kid
(It’s for the whole week, this quid)

The best part was ‘Block Dance’ yearly
J brothers, songs, nothing went waste
We loved the music and acts clearly
Although some jokes were not in good taste

3rd MB and we were all ‘eyes and ears’
Composed and listening to Path Cooray
All Through our youthful years
We took in Inflammation, Gangrene and Decay

Prof Fernando showed forensic skills
Chappy’s bacteria played havoc
While Pharmo Prof’s new chemical drills
In our minds ran amok

In our brains was there space?
For ward classes on hip joint and knee?
In this Path, Bact,Pharmo haze
First Change to Superman, and see!

The next two years were a blessing
With need to do only surgery and medicine
That included all you ever wanted to know
But were afraid to ask

For in Medicine it’s the brain you use and in Surgery?
The hands to do the task!

The final exams at last appear
We wish we were never born
There’s a heavily charged atmosphere
Best laid plans tattered and torn

Oh those days of nervous anticipation
A cherished dream or was it a nightmare?
We were in suspended animation
Looking back, did we really care?

The Day is here when results are due
Most celebrate but for a few
Things have gone a bit awry
(For someone stood between him and his dowry!)

Good bye, farewell, Good Luck, Sleep well!
We are all in the Seventh Heaven
For it’s here! The year Sixty Seven
We’ve since had a life of Fantasia
Whether in LK, UK, Ca or Australia

-----------------------------

A humble offering by a batch ‘inmate’ of the Class of 62
Zita Perera Subasinghe