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Friday, June 23, 2017

Amigos Para Siempre

By Dr Nihal D Amerasekera

In the 1960’s when we were toiling in medical school there was great political unrest in our island paradise. The coup d’├ętat of 1962 was successfully crushed but its ripples were slow to clear. Ethnic tensions after the riots of 1958 never quite settled. With the country's economy in dire straits there was an embargo on imported goods. There were bread queues and food rations. Workers strikes filled the news. Tighten your belts was the political slogan. It was austerity for the masses and prosperity for a select few.

Friendships are natures great gift to the human race. Ones made in our youth had a certain closeness which we could never replicate later on in life.  Even now those friendships remain close despite the passage of years and the oceans that separate us. They seem priceless and have lasted a lifetime.

We had just finished our 2nd MB and the dust was settling after a gruelling 2 years and a tough examination. It was our love for billiards that brought Nalin and I together. He took me home on his red shiny Moto Guzzi where I met his parents. They lived close to the Kirillapone canal in Havelock Town. The Nanayakkara’s were a close knit family. Nalin’s parents treated me as a member of their tribe. I still remember the love, generosity and kindness they showed me. I cannot think of a kinder lady than Mrs. Nanayakkara for whom I have the greatest respect and affection.

After the 2nd MB examination Nalin Nanayakkara and I began to study together and we became close. Owning a Moto Guzzi was much like having a Harley Davidson, an icon of youthful vitality, strength and toughness. This was his pride and joy. His love affair with motor cycles has continued to this day. We didn’t wear crash helmets and injuries after accidents were serious. But in Sri Lanka in those days traffic moved slowly and there were fewer vehicles.

In 1965 it was Nalin’s brilliant idea to do a motor cycle journey upcountry during the faculty holidays. In those days it was hard to reach friends and relatives living upcountry as snail mail was painfully slow and phone calls were too pricey. Calls had to go through the Post Office Switch Board. We overcame those difficulties and made our arrangements. I shared his enthusiasm for travel. It is also a good way to enjoy a journey out in the open.

We started our journey just after sunrise from Nalin’s home in Havelock Town Colombo. We had no riding gear and none were needed. We just wore long trousers and T-shirt. It was hot and sunny. This changed as we went along when it got rather cloudy and cool. Traveling with the wind on the face was exhilarating. There was the occasional smell of smoke from the 2 stroke engine along the way. The loud regular beat of the engine was an expression of its raw power. Out of the city the pace was leisurely and we were able to appreciate the magnificent scenery. We stopped in wayside stalls for a cup of tea and a stretch. Until Avissawella the High Level road was straight and the landscape rather flat. Then the climb began rather gently at first up to Ratnapura. The road got more windy with steep hills. The scenery was spectacular. We chatted all the way as we climbed steadily higher passing through many small villages and endless tea and rubber plantations. Our destination was a tea estate managed by my cousin Nimal Amerasekera. He was the superintendent of Balangoda Group. We reached there around 5pm. He had a beautiful bungalow up on a hill with breath taking views. It was luxury to sit outside and enjoy a beer after a hard days ride. Nimal had invited his brother Gamini to join us. We spent a happy 3 days at Balangoda enjoying great company, good food and plenty of liquid refreshments. During the day we visited places of interest and in the nights we chatted enjoying the freedom drinking late into the night. One evening we went to see the Bond film ‘Dr No’ in the local cinema in Balangoda.  Both Nimal and Gamini were wonderful hosts. I remember their kindness, generosity and companionship with much nostalgia. Nimal is a sober guy who did everything to a moderation unlike the rest of us. Nimal is now retired and lives in Mount Lavinia. He still loves the outdoors and visits upcountry estates as an agent of the plantation industry in a supervisory capacity. Gamini emigrated to New Zealand and had a son, Kavan who is a solicitor in Sydney, Australia. His marriage broke up and lived on his own in New Zealand. He sadly died of a heartache while visiting his son in 2010.

We set off early morning with a stiff cool breeze. We were on our way to Bandarawela for lunch through Belihul-oya and Haputale. It was a ride through pine forests and wild and desolate countryside. There was not a soul in sight for miles. The long journey, uneven road surface and the bone shaking suspension of the Moto Guzzi gave us both a spine crushing experience. Nalin was more used to it than I was. We took regular breaks to take in the clean air, straighten our backs and improve the circulation in our legs. The landscape in Bandarawela is unique with vast lush green valleys surrounded by tall treeless mountains covered with grass. The beauty and solitude made for excellent riding which I enjoyed immensely.

We arrived at Chelsea Estate, Bandarawela around midday where we were expected for lunch. The superintendent was Majintha Perera who was married to Charmaine, my cousin from Kegalle. We had a drink and a chat and wonderful meal. Then off again on our way to  Queenstown Group, Hali-Ela near Badulla. We experienced tough but beautiful terrain all the way. On one side the road hugged the mountains and on the other side were steep drops into deep ravines. It was dangerous as it was beautiful. This is truly great biking country with amazing scenery. Majintha retired and lived in Nawala. He passed away in 2015 in Colombo of a heart attack. Charmaine lives with her eldest daughter in Colombo and we speak occasionally recalling the good old days.

We arrived at Queenstown Group late in the evening. Mohan Seneviratne who is married to Nalin’s sister Damayanthy welcomed us warmly. Mohan was from Wesley College, my old school. It is such a small world. He had a butler and several servants who looked after our every need. We spent a week in comfort and luxury. He was a wonderful host. I still remember his warm and generous hospitality and the delicious cuisine. During our stay in Hali-Ela Mohan drove us to Badulla where we saw a rugby game and visited friends in the medical house officers quarters. After a week of luxury we were sad to leave Mohan and the comfort of his home.

Our journey then took us to Nuwara Eliya and the beautiful Hakgala gardens. The wind was cold and we needed are sweaters. It was such a joy to be in the gardens where we spent several hours enjoying the colourful flowers, tree lined paths and the breath taking scenery.

Then we were back in the saddle on the downhill journey through to Kandy. It was a difficult ride with bumpy roads negotiating several hairpin bends. The traffic was light and the road surface reasonable. We spent a couple of hours visiting the Temple of the Tooth and walked along the promenade by the lake. The Kandy-Colombo road was busy as always but we had a smoother ride on a fine surface. It was a long but uneventful journey home. I realise now the extent of the loyalty the Moto Guzzi has shown all through our long and winding journey in such difficult terrain in some of the bumpy rural roads.

Nalin emigrated to the USA and qualified in Obstetrics and Gynaecology settling in Corona, Los Angeles California. When we visited him and his wife Damayanthy in 1994 we enjoyed his wonderful hospitality and the comfort of his mansion with its own orange grove and beautiful landscaped garden. We were treated to a sumptuous lunch. We had a dip in his pool with graceful cascades and gorgeous fountains. They were such lovely hosts.

Mohan and his wife Damayanthy live in Apple Valley, California. They left Sri Lanka during the unrest in the plantation sector in the 1970’s. It was such a pleasure to see them on my visit to Nalin and also to keep in touch by email for so many years. Wesley College smoothness has rubbed off on Mohan and remains a gentleman and a fine product of my old school.

The trusted and loyal Moto Guzzi was sold  before Nalin left for the USA. Many years later he tried to trace it to buy back but sadly it remains untraceable. He assumes it has been broken up and sold for parts. A sad end to an icon of the time.

I am still unaware how much our parents knew of our journey. My parents knew we were travelling together but I didn’t tell them it would be in a Moto Guzzi. My father feared motor bikes. He once owned an Enfield in his youth and had seen some horrendous accidents. They just assumed it would be in Nalin’s trusted family VW Beetle. All is well that ends well!!

As the weeks and months passed our friendship grew stronger. Nalin visited my home and my parents got to know and love him. Revo Drahman too joined us on many occasions when we started to prepare for the examinations together. I still recall how focussed Nalin was on his academic work when Revo and I had other ideas.

Although we prepared well for examinations there was a certain willingness to accept some divine assistance. Nalin’s mum was keen we should invoke the blessings of the Gods at Kataragama. So she organised a trip and we all travelled together. We stayed in Walahanduwa, Galle in a grand old mansion owned by Nalin’s relatives. The house was in a huge coconut plantation and had a charming central courtyard and a myriad of rooms. During our stay I too was a part of their family. The next day we set off before the break of dawn and reached Kataragama about mid morning. Mrs Nayakkara had prepared all the necessary ingredients for the ritual ceremony and gave us instructions as to what needs to be done. We mingled with the crowd and happily waited for the ceremony to begin. The Chief Priest was taken in a procession to the sound of drums and the wailing of an oboe. We all danced the Kavadi entranced by the occasion. Then the pooja began in the temple. There were massive crowds that clamoured for a part of the action. We burnt incense and made offerings to the Gods. On looking back it was an enjoyable ritual despite the blistering heat, clouds of dust and deafening noise. The job was done. Mission accomplished we returned back to Galle late at night and then to Colombo the following day.

On my many visits to Nalin’s house I met his cousin Jardi. I got the impression he managed his family estate and lived in Walahanduwa, Galle in that mansion we stayed on our trip to Kataragama. We visited him several times in Galle and spent our time touring places of interest and enjoying some glorious food. Once Jadi borrowed his brother’s posh Singer Gazelle coupe and took us on a journey to Hambantota and Tissamaharama. Traveling with the lowered hood was thrilling. Jadi drove at break-neck speed and raced other cars and we all had a jolly good time. I distinctly recall Jadi racing the Tissamaharama-Colombo night bus driven by a maniac. We had the hood open and had no seat belts in a car travelling at 90 mph. I am here to tell the tale. By now I had got to know Jadi well and we became close. He was a gentle person and a good and loyal friend. He had such a wonderful sense of humour.

As we completed our medical degree Nalin left the country soon after internship. When I was working in Colombo I visited Mr. and Mrs Nanayakkara as often as I could. After checking the blood pressure we took great pleasure in talking about old times. On those visits she was so happy to see me. I lost contact after leaving Sri Lanka and was deeply saddened to hear they both had passed away. She had succumbed to coronary artery disease in 1980 and him a year later. When I met Nalin in London at the batch Reunion of 1992 I was so overwhelmed with grief to hear that Jadi too had died in 1983 leaving a young family. I am saddened I never knew he died in London from complications of Myeloid Leukaemia. I would most certainly have gone to see him at the Royal Marsden Hospital. With his friendly enthusiasm and playfulness he was a delight to be with and his demise a sad loss.


Nalin was one of my closest pals in medical school. Bringing up families and caring for them while managing our careers consumed our time. During those years it was hard to keep contact even with the closest of friends. We managed an occasional email. After the children left the nest we took the foot off the peddle and continued to work until retirement. In this digital age it is so much easier to be in touch. I have never attended batch reunions in Sri Lanka. Hence I have missed many opportunities to meet friends from my batch including Nalin.  As the years pass I do hope we could meet again. Meanwhile I will hold on to those happy memories located in a secure corner of my brain.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Yoga at 70+, A Personal Discovery

  By Srianee (Bunter) Fernando Dias                                         


When we met at our 50th Reunion, our good friend Mahendra Gonsalkorale spoke about the importance of exercise.  His favorite activity is golf, which he seems to enjoy in various exotic locations.  I have not yet been tempted to invest the time and money to chase a small ball over finely manicured grass, but who knows, I may try it sometime.  The secret to regular exercise is finding an activity that is enjoyable.

I have never been very athletic, only moderately so, but I know that exercise is important, especially now.  As a teenager I played some tennis and was enthusiastic enough to play in the heat and sun during our lunch breaks at school, arriving hot and sweaty to our classes after lunch.  Later on as an adult, I took some lessons and played in fits and starts at different times when I found  friends who were on the same level, and really enjoyed it. But, the problem with tennis is that one needs someone on the other side of the net to return the balls.  My tennis buddies moved away, or developed arthritis and various other ailments, and my racket retreated to the back of the closet.  A few years ago I even tried playing with my grandson, who became increasingly impatient as his tennis skills quickly overtook mine.  “You have to run for the ball, Grandma,” was the refrain I kept hearing from the other side of the net.  (But really kid, can’t you return the ball closer to me?)

When I finally retired from the daily grind of work, I realized that I had to have a plan to keep moving.  I enjoy walking outdoors when the weather is agreeable.  We have several beautiful reservoirs not too far from where I live, and there are great walking trails around them.  These areas are wooded and isolated and walking alone on those trails is not something that is recommended.  To make things worse, the black bear population in Connecticut has been steadily increasing, and it is not unusual for walkers to encounter bears on these trails.  These are not aggressive bears, and they usually shy away when they hear people talking or making any kind of noise.  The lone walker, however, could unexpectedly startle a bear.  Friends have advised me to carry pebbles in a can while walking alone (they were serious!) so that the bears would hear the noise and stay away.  But, unless I can find someone to walk with me, I stay away from these great trails and just walk on the sidewalks (boring!) along the streets.  But, I do try to make it more enjoyable by listening to my own music.
At various times in my quest for enjoyable exercise, I’ve signed up at local gyms to use their equipment.  My enthusiasm was short lived, and I stopped going after a few months.  I have to admit that exercising next to other sweaty bodies was a bit of a turnoff.  I also discovered that I was a bit of a germaphobe and didn’t like using equipment recently vacated by someone with a cold or who knows what else.

Several friends had been attending a yoga studio near me and kept telling me how great it was, and I decided to try it out.  Besides, I felt that I needed a ‘framework’ to my retirement routine, because otherwise there was a danger of the days just frittering away.  For the past year or so (except for the time spent in Sri Lanka) I have been attending ‘gentle yoga’ classes every Tuesday and Thursday mornings.  The attendees are mostly women, ranging in age from 25 to 80+, but I have also noticed a few brave men among us.  The classes last about an hour and 20 minutes, begin with meditation, deep breathing and end with relaxation.  There is some chanting involved because some of the instructors have trained in India.  I’m still learning the correct names for the poses: Warrior, Downward Dog, Child Pose, Rag Doll, Tree Pose, etc.  Most of the exercises we do focus on stretching, improving flexibility and balance. 

Coincidentally, when I was thinking about writing this article, the April/May issue of the AARP magazine published an article which listed “21 Reasons for Doing Yoga  After 70.”  The reasons given in the article are: Improves flexibility, increases balance, fends off weight gain, supercharges brain, soothes stress, reduces depression, protects your heart (reduces blood pressure and LDL), promotes more zzz’s, eases back pain, boosts body confidence, relieves headaches, lessens inflammation, helps breathing, slows aging, encourages exercise (getting involved in other forms of activity), increases aerobic capacity, eases cancer recovery, fights incontinence, improves your day (I can attest to that, the mood is improved!), curbs neck pain and controls diabetes (decreases blood glucose levels).

I have a long way to go before I can hold the poses in a respectable fashion. I seem to stretch certain muscles, the existence of which I have forgotten about, although I’m sure at some point in our first two years of Medical School I knew their origins and insertions!  I still stand very close to the wall when instructed to stand on one leg (Tree Pose) in case I teeter and totter (which I always do).  Some of the exercises we do are designed to ‘lubricate’ the joints.  It is a whole body and mind endeavor, something which I think I will be able to continue doing way into the next decade.


I know that some of our Blog readers are practicing yoga already, but I encourage those who haven’t tried it to give it a shot.  I recommend starting with the gentle version and if something appears to be too difficult, don’t do it.  You will feel the benefits very quickly.    My goal is to be able to do a headstand before I am eighty.  (Just kidding!)

Monday, June 19, 2017

E-mail from Razaque Ahamat

Dr. Razaque Ahamat

16:16 (21 minutes ago)
to me
Dear Lucky,

I am sorry that I was unable to respond to in the Blog as I was "unwell".

In mid June I was taken to Hospital by ambulance on 3 occasions in the space of 10 days-- twice in one day. First was a "chest pain"-- thought my end was nigh???.
Found nothing-- all cardiac enzymes were negative!!...... probably indigestion???.
Next was ten days later when I was going to the toilet @ about 3am, tripped & fell .... hit my "UGLY" face on the radiator & had profuse nasal bleed........ discharged from hosp.... re-bled.... rest is history.!!! Left Hosp. after 3days!!

Shall be in touch again "SOON"!!!!.

Razaque.

p.s.---May post this please. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Creative Spot by Sriani Dissanayake Basnayake

Old Aunt goes down Memory Lane…………

     Old Aunts interest in rugby has had many resurrections, the last being in 1996, when one nephew donned the No; 8 jersey. My interest was sustained up to the end of 2004, when the younger brother captained the College team. These two dear nephews (hereafter referred to as DNs) looked so handsome in their heyday, that all females young and old drooled longingly at their physique. Today, they both look like Sumo Wrestlers, and no one would imagine that they could even grasp a Gilbert, leave alone play rugby!

After DN’s exist from the rugby scene following the Bradby of 2004, OA’s (Old Aunt’s) interest in rugby waned gradually, due partly to advancing age, and partly due to the absence of a family member in the College 1st XV. One DN produced a male offspring 3 years ago, and he may be the first 4th generation Royalist to play in the Bradby. My father played in the 1st XV in 1930 and captained in 1932, my late brother, of “drop kick fame” played from 1962 – 1964, his son was Vice Captain in 1998 and his youngest son captained in 2004. Will little Thushin be the first 4th generation Royalist to play for College?

Even though the game of rugby in Sri Lanka is an all male affair, the interest in the game is shared by a large segment of the female population, ranging from sisters, girl friends, friends of girl friends, mothers, aunts and even grandmothers. In my life, I seem to have gone through all those categories.

A rugger match is a place for females of all ages to display their fashions, their anatomical endowments, and to see and be seen. The numbers that fell for tackles in the stands may have far surpassed those tackled on the field. The antics in the stands often convinced me that there were much faster numbers on the side lines than the fastest three quarters on the field. In addition to the ill effects of the natural process of aging, OA’s concentration on the game has been constantly interrupted by disturbing elements which are now part and parcel of popular school matches, viz..vociferous female supporters. Females with little knowledge of the game keep shouting instructions to the players, and one wonders whether their high pitched screams of “tackle low”…  “pass it….pass it”  or “go boy go” etc were meant for the players on the field or those sitting by them in the stands, who were either tackling too high, or had not found touch even though they had covered considerable ground up and under. “Well tackled” comes a shout from behind. For a moment I wondered whether he was referring to Mr Heththumuni sitting in front of me, for despite his persistent “heththus” he was off side for the early part of the game, but now seemed to have found good touch on innumerable occasions!! Some women are quite knowledgeable re the game, and recently at a school match, the women behind me were screaming at the Ref to give so and so a yellow/red card etc….even before I could fathom what the infringement was.

Judging from the matches I have witnessed in the last few years, the behavior of the female of the species has not changed over the past 60 years. The only difference I have noticed of late is that there is plenty of shouting in the vernacular, with shouts of “gahapang”, “allapang” and even a “marapang” thrown in!

I am taking a crash course on the laws of Rugby, so that by the time of the Bradby I would know that a “low tackle” is not the act of a lecherous man, and being “off side” is totally different to fielding on the off side in cricket, and anyone finding good touch need not be charged for sexual molestation!

 I do not know whether I will have the pleasure of watching still another Dissanayaka take the field, but even otherwise, I can go down memory lane, and sing:

                        “And we their loyal sons now bear
                         The torch, with hearts as sound as oak,
                         Our lusty throats now raise a cheer
                         For Hartley, Harward, Marsh and Boake.



                                                           OLD  AUNT SB
                                                                            June  2017

                        

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Colla's Obituary

COLLURE - DR DON BERTRAM MAHENDRA. Beloved husband of Ramani,​ inspirational father of Nishani and father-in-law of Mark,​ amazing Poppa of Joshua and Toby,​ brother of Dudley and Tilak,​ brother-in-law of Nalini,​ Dellani,​ Nilanthie and Kithsiri,​ son of the late Dr DCM and Patricia Collure,​ son-in-law of Sumana and the late Roland Wijewickrema,​ passed away peacefully in Wellington NZ,​ 31 May,​ 2017 surrounded by his loving family.068900

Please see older posts.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Some pictures of Mahendra Collure

I am thankful to Indra A. for sending me these pictures.

February 1999


 !st. Picture  - Rotorua- hot springs, north island, New Zealand

2nd. picture - Gisbourne, north island, New Zealand






 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Mahendra Collure

Indra Ananda1

03:03 (5 hours ago)
to me

I am one of Mahendras medical school batch mates, & was fortunate to have interned, at Ratnapura general hospital, Sri Lanka with him. Fortunate, because living in the same intern’s quarters I got to know this exceptional man. Colla was always so soft spoken, a truly fine gentleman & I noticed had a talent for decorating ( quarters socials ) and a caring and diligent physician. Those who met him and I were lucky to have known him.

More recently he sent me wild life pictures after  the trip to Sri Lanka. They were exceptional pictures that showed the artist in him.

I am like Mahendra, an anesthesiologist by training, but living in the USA, and several years ago my wife Rani & I visited Colla and Ramani in Gisborne. We stayed with them in that beautiful  & award winning home, on the hill that that overlooked the bay & if I recall correctly, the bay into which captain Cook had sailed in. We therefore had a lot of stuff in common to talk about- having been medical school batch mates, co - interns & anesthetists. Colla and Ramani were gracious enough to entertain us & even take the trouble to drive us to distant Rotorua- sheep shearing & sulphur and hot water springs come to mind.

Indra Anandasabapathy

Indra had addressed this to Nishani. But as there was some doubt whether it reached her, I have modified it to suit the blog.

Lucky 

*******************************************************************************************************************

I heard from Sanath Lamabadusuriya, the shocking news that Mahendra Collure has passed away. 

Mahendra was the Bestman at my wedding. When his wife Ramani was expecting their only child Nishani, my wife Mangala was also expecting our eldest son Shehan. Ramani was at St. Michael's Nursing Home at Alfred House Gardens and at the same time, Mangala was at St. Michaels's, Anderson Road where Dr. Rasamutthiah was a House Officer. Both Ramani and Mangala were under the care of Prof. Wilfred Perera. 

May he attain Nibbana.

Lucky

Please see the following e-mails.

From: Chandrawije <chandrawije1@gmail.com>
Date:2017/06/01 4:06 PM (GMT+08:00)

To:
Cc:
Subject: Fwd: Don Collure

Dear Friends,

Another member of our 54 group has passed on. Dr. Don Bradman Mahendra Collure who worked in New Zealand is no more. May he attain the supreme bliss of Nirvana.

Kind regards,

Sanath


Sent from my iPad. 

Begin forwarded message:
Profl
Date: 1 June 2017 at 12:59:18 PM AEST
To: chandrawije1@gmail.com
Subject: Don Collure
Just to let you know Dad passed peacefully late last night-Mum and I were with him, he was surrounded by love. As he wanted it, we arranged for his cremation this afternoon. We visited him in hospice again this morning and he looked peaceful and beautiful- everdignified and magical. The 5 of us spent a bit of time with him at the parlour before his cremation and it was perfect. Mum remains strong. We are looking after her, she is Amazing.

Nishani 
Blog Administrator's note: His real name is Don Bertram Mahendra Collure.