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Sunday, July 9, 2017

“The way we were” - A Mini Reunion held in London

  By Nihal D Amerasekera

Memories light the corners of my mind
Misty water-colored memories of the way we were
Scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind
Smiles we gave to one another for the way we were.
Can it be that it was all so simple then
Or has time rewritten every line
If we had the chance to do it all again, tell me, would we, could we

Reunions are a reminder of our enormous gratitude to our alma mater and the joy of our lives together in that Kynsey road bubble. That was the way we were. Although the context was different I love the lyrics of that great song. It rings so true and sung so brilliantly and with such feeling by Barbara Streisand in that classic film of 1973.

I am not a regular at the many reunions held in Sri Lanka. After the event I have regretted not making an attempt to see my friends. None of us are here forever and a chance missed is an opportunity lost.  To see so many of our batch just a short walk away from my home in London is simply an impossible dream.

Ours is a unique batch for the unity and the camaraderie we have shown since the very beginning. The intensity of those friendships have lasted a lifetime. It is also a batch known for the academic brilliance which some of my friends have shown during those gruelling 5 years and beyond. There are some things we are not too proud of like our youthful indiscretions at the Law Medical match. For those we have received the punishment and paid our dues.

It all started with Prams emails to Mahen that she would be in London for 6 weeks in the summer and we should try and have a mini get-together. Mahen who is a technocrat put his organising skills to good use and sent emails and spreadsheets to all those in our batch who were within his radar and contactable.  Personal networking and social media too helped in the process of tracking people and their availability. The spreadsheet was invaluable in securing a date suitable to all. Sanath Lama had told us of his visit to UK to be present at the birth of his first grandchild. We felt it would be wonderful to welcome a loyal and respected friend. Jimmy kindly suggested a fine venue in Paddington well known for its gourmet cuisine. Pram visited the venue to speak with the management and also to find out first hand its suitability for such a noisy gathering. Nothing being left to chance Mahen and Pram between them sent us a detailed map and instructions how to reach the restaurant.

The 30th of June was a perfect summers day. We met at Satay House in Paddington, a Malaysian restaurant. As I stepped in I got the usual bone crushing bear hug from Mahen. Soon after midday we had a full quorum exchanging pleasantries and anecdotes. Mahen welcomed everyone.  It was colourful as it was informal digging up family photos and old stories amidst lots of laughter. Many of the faces seemed familiar due to the recent reunions. Despite this there were the howlers with mistaken identities and forgotten names. We were gathered here to recount old memories and we did that to our hearts content. Sanath Lama related one of his most enthralling anecdotes.

Malaysian food is a unique fusion of indigenous Malay, Chinese, Indian and Nyonya cuisine. It was truly a feast. The food was deliciously spiced and simply sensational. There was an amazing blend of flavours. Personally, the king prawn curry with the heavily spiced sauce was worth its weight in gold. Despite the large group the customer service was exceptional. It was well rounded off with mouth-watering banana fritters and ice cream.
Shanthini Nalliah:  I haven’t seen her since 1967. She still has that wonderful sense of humour.  Shanthini spoke of life and death in such humerous terms it was hilarious. She has asked her family not to have speeches at her funeral. If anyone wants to say something they can do it right now and right here. It was such a great pleasure to meet her.
Sunil and Sirima: We met in March this year at the mini reunion in St John’s Wood. Sunil and I were in the same alphabetical group in the Faculty for 5 years. He is an absolute hoot when it comes to stories and fun. He didn’t disappoint us. Sirima is such a friendly person she gels in so well with our group. Sirima hails from my ancestral home in Kudabuthgamuwa and we had things in common to talk about.
Batu and Geetha: Batu seemed to recognise many of us although the conversation was rather limited. It was so lovely to see them both again. I cannot thank Geetha enough for making the effort to come to the reunions. We saw them in March at the St John’s Wood Reunion too. Geetha is now a part of our group.
Jeyaratnam: was charming as he always was. He was in his dapper beige suit seated next to me. We had a long chat about mutual friends from our batch. It was great to get information from him about Eashwaran Kanapathipillai who now lives in Australia and also Poopalasingham alias PUPA who has spent all his working life in the USA. Jeyaratnam was a physician in Elderly Care in Chelmsford, now retired. He recommends reading short stories to prevent memory loss. The stories have to be pretty short nowadays to remember the beginning when we reach the end.
I last saw Dharmini and Amara in 1974 at Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield where we both worked. Dhamini’s sister who is a doctor was married to Dr Ashley Senarath Dassanaike who was an Obstetrician in Sri Lanka. He was a family friend of ours for many years and I recalled seeing him in their accommodation in Enfield long long ago. It was so good to catch-up.
Zita and Joe: It was such a pleasure to see them both. I value their friendship immensely. They came by taxi all the way from Kent not wanting to miss this event despite their difficulties. They are regulars at our gatherings and Zita joined us for the St John’s Wood event in March this year. We vowed to meet again as a foursome with Mahen as we have always done in the past.
Susil Attale and Rupa: I haven’t seen Susil since the last goodbye in 1967. He was a psychiatrist in St Albans. Like all mind-benders he is quiet but confident. We talked a lot about the interesting but uncertain times in the faculty. It was good to meet Rupa. Let us hope we can meet again.
Jimmy: This is the first time I am seeing him since the results were posted on the notice board on that fateful day in 1967. He is still the polite gentleman he was as a student and possesses the wisdom of common sense. Jimmy was seated next to me at lunch. As we tucked in to the sumptuous meal, we chatted about our journey through life, career progression and family. He is such a delightful person to talk to.
Suren: Suren and I were friends all through medical school. Being in the same alphabetical group we suffered together the trials and tribulation of the signatures, ward classes and professorial appointments. He still remains the jolly person I knew all those years ago. Amazingly he seemed to disappear into thin air after the final year results. No one knew his whereabouts. Suren lives in the posh county of Surrey where he worked as a GP. Modest and lively he is such delightful company.  It was a great pleasure to make contact again.
Indrani Subramanium: Indrani was a friendly chatty person in the faculty when the many of the girls were reserved to the extreme. Even now Indrani speaks her mind as she did in those days. I saw Indrani at the St John’s Wood gathering and also at the reunion organised by Bobby Somasunderam near Manchester. That shows her loyalty to our batch. She has now forgotten my name but that’s to be forgiven.
Sanath Lama: I last met Sanath in June 2016 in a back street just off the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street. Mahen, Zita and I arranged a lunch and a chat at short notice. It was so lovely to get together with just the 3 of us. He is widely respected for his outstanding loyalty and service. We are so very proud of him for the wonderful work he does in Sri Lanka in the fields of medical education and research. He is a fine raconteur and the life and soul of any party.
Pram:  glamourous as ever travels widely and is a regular Spring and Summer migrant to London to enjoy the cricket, theatre and the music. She has her pad near Lords cricket grounds to soak up the atmosphere.  Pram is a well known figure at all our gathering as an active organiser of reunions both at home and abroad.

Mahen is a genial, kindly man with liberal values. A man of astonishing energy.  Like a deity he is omnipresent.  One day he is in Manchester the next in Birmingham and ending up in London to liven up an event. He helps to get people together and keep in touch.

Our lives in the faculty and the friendships are carved in our memories and wrapped on our souls. It is hard to say goodbye to friends whom we have known since our youth. We said it with hugs and handshakes. We hope we can meet again. At these reunions we must make it a ritual to remember our friends who have now departed this life. They too were close to us and we thank them for their friendship and their contribution to the life in the faculty. Despite the passage of years we have retained that indomitable faculty spirit. The Reunion brought back wonderful memories of life in that great institution, and the knowledge of how much it means to us even now.

It was such a privilege and a pleasure to see so many at such short notice. All that is left for me now is to thank Mahen and Pram for organising this wonderful reunion. Thank you to our friends who attended the gathering despite their many commitments and engagements. Without their inspiration and enthusiasm this event would not have occurred. Thank you for that unforgettable afternoon.

Batu, Speedy, Geetha
Batu, Geetha 

Standing L-R: ND, Speedy, Jimmy, Pram, Sunil, Lama, Batu, Attale, Dharmani, Jayaratnam, Suren
Seated: Shanthi, Indrani, Zita

Sirima


Zita, Pram

Dharmani, Suren, Jayaratnam

Lama, Jayaratnam

Sunil, Sirima, ND 

8 comments:

  1. Thank you very much Nihal for that very detailed account of our meeting. I met Batuwitage and Indrani for the first time after graduation.I really enjoyed chatting to all of our batch-mates and their spouses. The choices of venue and menu were excellent.Thank you very much Mahendra and Pram for the excellent ground work. As I am planning to visit England next summer as well(as two of my children are here), another re-union is on the cards.
    Sanath

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  2. Thank you Lucky for posting this so soon after getting back from your holiday. All that has to be said has been said by ND in his own inimitable style. It was a pleasure to help organise this with Pram. The response was staggering and to get 14 of us plus 5 spouses was wonderful. We had apologies and best wishes from Ranjit Dambawinna,Rohini Abhay, Apu Sumathipala, Con Bala, Upali and Padmini Wijeratne, Harsha Boralessa, Nihal Goonetileke, Manel Hetti and Douglas Mulgirigama. They all had very good reasons why they couldn't make it and wanted to be kept informed of future events. To me, my formative years at the Medical Faculty remain a precious and important stage of my life and I will always have a special affection for my colleagues with whom I shared "the good, the bad and the ugly", the latter two fortunately being relatively miniscule!

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  3. Congratulations on an excellent job done. You seem to have got responses from almost all UK residents. I can understand why Razaque was unable to attend.

    I was surprised that Bora had not made it. He and Harshi usually attend all such events. The few who have not responded must have had their own reasons. I noticed that the following were missing:

    Sydney Seneviratne, Ranjith Kariyawasam.

    Not sure whether Navaratnasingham (Ghandi),Fabian Perera, UC Ramanathan (I still don't know her first name!), Edwis Samarakoon, Saparamadu, Sathanandan, Vanitha Shanmugavadivel, Selliah/Pathmanadan (I only know that she is "Thanabals" sister), Selvadurai, Thilaka Thirunavukarasu, Mahewari Singharayer Nadarajah, Thiraviam, Viswanathan, Wattegedera, LPJM Wickramasinghe, Lubber Wijeyekoon are in UK or elsewhere.

    Do continue the good work.

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  4. We are closing in on the million "hits" mark. It's 997,158 as of today. There had been a spurt in recent weeks.

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  5. Thanks for that information Lucky. We generally tried to only contact people not too far from London. Through Susil Attale, I got to know that Ranjit Karyawasam was in Sri Lanka. Cunningham and Padmini are in Brisbane at the moment. Razaque knew about it but as you know his health is not 100% at the moment to come all the way from Scotland.

    I predicted that the MAGIC MILLION MILESTONE would happen towards late July and I think we are on track to achieve this. Get your MILLIONTH MOMENT post ready Lucky! Huge cause for celebration.

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  6. Nihal, reading your account is as satisfying as the mini reunion that day. and even more enjoyable with the little interesting details about each one you have taken care to add. I truly appreciate these chances to get together and we get to see our batch mates in a different light and more relaxed. Your description of each one adds that touch of glamour to the occasion and colour to us fading figures of the 1962 batch. We have to thank Mahendra, Sanath and Pram for the valiant effort to get this off the ground or should I say on the ground? Thanks, everyone! from Zita

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  7. https://youtu.be/HJNrKHv50X8

    This is the you tube link to 'The Way We Were' which Nihal started his account of the mini reunion with. I thought our members will like to listen to it after Nihal reminded us of it. Zita

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  8. Dear Shanthini,
    I am always late in contributions.
    There is a famous statement from a lady called Erica Jong,I quote,You don't get to choose how you are going to die,or when,you going to live now.
    There are two lives.The life we learn live after that,sohow do we get to this second life.Surviving meant being born over and over(Buddhist way of thinking).

    Read and digest.

    Keeping guessing the sender

    ReplyDelete