A tribute to a great teacher

Peter Dantanarayana was the father of our batch mate late Savithri Dissanayake


114th Birth Anniversary of Mr. Peter Dantanarayana“Even now we recall the sweet memories we had at the physics laboratory where you had a good command. We were guided and advised on Science subjects especially Physics, Mechanics and Applied Science. You brought up many pupils by imparting knowledge at maximum level. We remember you as our capable Vice Principal too when you did school administration excellently. You brought light to our school, Mahinda College. Many students did extremely well in your subjects. We are greatly indebted to you for basic foundation laid on us. Many Mahindians pay homage to you on this precious 114th birthday. N.Pandikorala” – Physics Prize winner of Mahinda College, 1962”.The above extract was from an e-mail Mrs. Dayadari Devendra received from Mr. N. Pandikorala, forwarded to her mutual friends, including me. On reading the contents, I thought I will pen down what I remember about our late Guru – Mr. Peter Dantanarayana, fondly known as “Dantaya”/”Dante”.

Mr. Dantanarayana, born on 17th January 1907, passed away on 9th December, 1978. He was the Vice Principal of Mahinda College until his early retirement in March 1962. Like most of us Mahindians, he had his entire primary and secondary education at Mahinda. He entered University College, Colombo, graduating with B.Sc. Hons. in the late 1920s. His early mentor was the famous Educationist Dr. P. De S. Kularatne. He joined Mahinda College as a teacher in 1933 and in 1947, was appointed the Vice Principal, relieving Mr. G.C. Edirisinghe, who was the Composer of the College Song.In the College magazine of 1949, the Editor’s note had the following comment regarding its tutorial staff Quote “It was at the beginning of last year that Mr. P. Dantanarayana who returned to us after a period of Post Graduate Training at the Government Training College assumed duties as the Vice Principal of the College. During the absence of our Principal, he had to take up duties as Acting Principal. With delight, we mention that he discharged duties as Acting Principal energetically and successfully and to the entire satisfaction of all concerned”.

It is relevant to mention here that he was among the first batch of Ceylonese to be awarded a Fulbright scholarship for postgraduate studies at Stanford University in California 1952-53.Although I was in the primary school, I can remember him driving a brand new Hillman car to the College with an unforgettable number plate EL – 990. Mr. Dantanarayana was always neatly clad in a cream coloured national attire with a matching shawl. Almost all his eight children accompanied him in the car, entering the College via the steep entrance. We watched out the Hillman car coming up the hill every day, as our classroom had the best view of it. The car was always parked just after the top of the hill, where all the children gets down. When the assembly or the Office work is over, he comes back to the car and would just release the brakes. The car then ends up in his designated place in the garage without using a drop of petrol !!!

Mr. Dantanarayana’s eldest son Duleep and I were in the same class – Form one “A” in 1958 and he was treated as another student in the class. Duleep and I were together upto our O’ Level in 1962. We were together in the Junior cadet platoon too, being the two Corporals of the 1962 platoon.My direct contact of “Dantaya”, as we called him affectionately, was in 1961, when we entered the fourth Form. Mr. Dantanarayana was the Teacher for Physics & Mechanics (Applied Maths) and these two subjects were like “Greek” to us. We all had to walk from our usual classroom (2nd floor one facing the College entrance) to the Physics Lab for these two subjects. So much so, one of my classmates – the late Dr. Danister Gunaratne said to me as the subject is “Mechanics” we could be dealing with car engines, as generally, Mechanics were found in Motor Garages !!! To our surprise, Mr. Dantanarayana began to teach a subject called Trigonometry, which we have never heard of. He continued teaching trigonometry until the end of the first term, by which time the formulae – (Sin A + Sin B) = Sin A Cos B + Cos A Sin B and (Sin A- Sin B) = Sin A Cos B –Cos A Sin B, Lami’s theorem, Theorem of Parallelogram of Forces, Couples etc., had got properly registered in us. We used text books for Statics, Dynamics and Hydrostatics written by S.L. Loney. I can still remember one of his pupils, the late Daya de Silva remembering Dantaya when he had to cut a very huge tree close to Galle Road, Pandura. He said as taught by Dantaya he arranged to hang the branches by the Theory of Parallelogram of forces to lower the branches with no harm to anybody !!!

For Physics we had books relating to heat, light and sound, all written by Mackenzie. For heat it was mostly coefficient of linear expansion, cubical expansion and later calorific value and latent heat. For light, convex and concave mirrors, lenses, prisms, total internal reflection (Kohinoor Gem) and for sound, unfortunately, he could teach us only about two lessons as he had to leave the College in March 1962. He also made efforts to teach a few terms in Sinhala using “Paaribashika Shabda Maalaawa- පරිබාෂික ශබ්ද මාලාව” that depicted the Sinhala term for wave length, frequency and amplitude.When I was just out of College around 1967/68, I happened to meet him at an AGM of the Colombo Branch of the OBA. He never misses the AGMs as he enjoyed the company of his old College friends met once a year. Notable attendees during 1967/68 were the Deputy Speaker Mr. I.A. Cader, Chairman of the Senate Mr. Thomas Amarasuriya, Major Simon Wijeratne, Lionel Edirisinghe and a few others. They addressed each other by their first names thus Thomas, Simon, Cader, Peter, Lionel … It was like the present day “Back to School” for them.Another significant event I remember about Mr. Dantanarayana was that I visited him and Duleep late in the evening sometime in December, 1973 at No. 116, Wakwella Road in Galle. We had a very comfortable chat until about 8.00 p.m., sipping liquid from a Red JW bottle but Duleep sipping only beer. He remembered to inquire from me about a very Senior Marine Engineer that Mahinda produced, the late Mr. A.S.M. De Silva. That was the last time I saw Mr. Dantanarayana as I was working overseas.

Mr. Dantanarayana was married to one of the prettiest ladies in Galle, Miss. Wilhelmina Turin De Silva. She was one of the best Seamstress in Galle, who brought up five daughters and three sons namely Dr. Mrs. Dheemathie De Silva, Mrs. Dayadari Devendra, the late Dr. Mrs. Savithri Dissanayake, Buddhimathie Chethiywardane, Mrs. Ramani Wijeratne and sons Duleep (aka Danto) Indra (aka Ginikura) and Sarath (aka Rubber).On the initiative of MCOBA Colombo Branch, the then President the late Deshabandu Albert Edirisinghe offered a Scholarship to a student from Mahinda who would enter the University in the Science stream, which was named the “Dantanarayana scholarship”. Latterly, the Dantanarayana children increased the number of scholarships to Five and a family member or two would always be present at the awards ceremony. Also the family awards a Gold medal to the best student in Mathematics at the annual prize- giving of Mahinda College.Mr. Peter Dantanarayana is most affectionately remembered on his 114th birth anniversary.

May he attain the supreme bliss of Nirvana.Ranjith Gurugamage17th January, 2021.

Reproduced FB article by Ranjith Gurugamage

Viva Voce !

The other day I was chatting with CJ.  After the usual inquiry of health, bowel movement and grandkids , we drifted  to our favourite topic  “the good days”. In the process we were wondering about the “VIVA VOCE”   Exam, (a high sounding name) we had before we entered medical college. 
“viva voce” means by or with the living voice – i.e., by word of mouth as opposed to writing. (Google)

Unfortunately for me, thanks to senility and JW of many hues, red, black and blue,  helped by Chivas, I do not recall any questions. CJ and Thillaivasan remembered theirs. All I remember was we gathered outside the interview location on Reid avenue, prior to our turn, quizzing those coming out after the interview what they were asked. This was for us to get prepared for the exam. But remember, this was a competitive exam. So, some did not want to share. I did not witness this personally but was told one of the candidates was not willing to share his experience and some tension developed, immediately one his classmates came to his rescue and was ready to rumble! Saner minds prevailed and there was peace. The first of these two went to Peradeniya medical school and the other in Colombo with us. I will reveal his name after I get his permission .  We had to borrow a white coat!We thought it would be fun to hear from the experiences of our batch mates. We seldom talked about this.
viva voce” means by or with the living voice – i.e., by word of mouth as opposed to writing. (Google)

I am under the impression that viva voce was to make sure you were not merely a bookworm  but a well rounded personality fit for the medical profession. Secondly I thought the interview was not on subject matter. (Botany, Zoology, Physics or chemistry.) In fact  I thought most, if not all, the examiners were non medical faculty members.Third Question is what was the consequence  if you did not measure up. Was this the basis for allocation to Dental or Vet school, Agrculture or bioscience.?

1.  We thought it might be fun to hear the QUESTIONS  You were asked and by whom if you remember. 2. Your ANSWER.  3. Any special PREPERATIONS You made  for the Viva voce.  
Few years after our batch, the Viva Voce was dropped. Perhaps it was because there were a larger number of Medical school admissions with more medical schools. Also there were possible disadvantages to students from rural areas.   English was a second language.  Also because this process did not make a difference.  If you wish to be anonymous send directly to us and we can put it up as anonymous.

Dharma and CJ

Happy Pongal

The Tamil festival of Thai Pongal is a thanks giving ceremony in which the farmers celebrate the event to thank the spirits of nature spirit, the Sun and the farm animals for their assistance in providing a successful harvest. The rest of the people celebrate the festival to pay their thanks to the farmers for the production of food. Overall, it is a festival to encourage social cohesiveness and unite people by bringing them together in a common function.  


Remembering “Walloops”

Father of Cardiology in SL

By Dr Upul Wijayawardhana. (Upul is a fellow Jeevakite and a good friend. Shared by Sam )

Published in The Island today

The pioneering Cardiologist Dr Narendradas Jayaratnam Wallooppillai, affectionately referred to as “Walloops” by his friends, who succumbed to heart failure on 6th January 2011, surely deserves the title ‘The Father of Cardiology in Sri Lanka’ because it was during his tenure that Cardiology came to its own as a speciality. However, he was not the first to head the Cardiology Unit of the General hospital, Colombo. That distinction goes to Dr Ivor Obeysekara who, in spite of fighting against all odds to establish a dedicated Cardiology Unit, took early retirement and left for Australia. Dr Obeysrekara’s tenure was short, not having sufficient time to develop the speciality, the Cardiology Unit functioning as a Cardiology ward during his time. Dr Wallooppillai was born on 6th June 1925, to the wealthy and influential Velupillai family which settled in Balangoda thanks to the hospitality of the Ratwatte family; the ancestors of Mrs Sirimavo Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike. It is said that when he was admitted to St. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia, the warden, Canon De Saram, changed the spelling of his name from Velupillai to Wallooppillai as he thought it was more user friendly. He graduated from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Ceylon in 1951 and proceeded soon after to UK. He obtained MRCP (London) and MRCP Cardiology (Edinburgh), undergoing training in Cardiology in Manchester. On his return he was appointed Consultant Physician, General Hospital, Jaffna. Subsequently he was appointed the first Physician-in-charge of the Cardiac Investigation Unit (CIU) in General Hospital, Colombo which was set up around the same time as the Cardiology Unit. Dr Mahinda Weerasena was appointed the Consultant Cardiac Radiologist to this Unit and Dr Thistle Jayawardena, Consultant Anaesthetist, who was instrumental in setting up the Surgical Intensive Care Unit (the first intensive care unit in the country), joined later. I was fortunate to know Dr Wallooppillai from June 1968, when I became his Registrar, and owe my entire training in Cardiology to him. I pride myself in being the first Cardiologist to be trained entirely in Sri Lanka and it is a credit to his tutelage that even after leaving Sri Lanka, I was able not only to practice Cardiology in UK but also set up an acclaimed Cardiology service in Grantham Hospital. For this, I am eternally indebted to him. How I got to working with Walloops is an interesting story. Whilst working as the Registrar in the Professorial Medical Unit of the Peradeniya Medical Faculty under Professor Ajwad Macan Markar and Senior Lecturer Dr T. Varagunam, I obtained M D (Ceylon) degree in December 1967. Though I had a further 18 months of my secondment to the Professorial Unit left, the Department of Health withdrew me and appointed me Resident Physician, General Hospital Kandy. To my surprise, I got a call from the Department inquiring whether I would be interested in the post of Registrar CIU in General Hospital, Colombo. Having ascertained that this unexpected offer was simply because there were no applicants in spite of the post being advertised twice, I decided to meet Dr ‘Kalu’ Jayasinghe, the Assistant Director of Hospitals to have a chat. Whilst admitting that Wallops is a tough task-master, he advised me to take it as it would be my opening to the speciality of Cardiology which was in its infancy at the time. I owe a debt of gratitude to Dr Jayasinghe for that sound advice which changed my life forever. My initial reservations soon vanished as I found Dr Wallooppillai to be a great teacher, very inspirational one at that, as well as an efficient organiser. He shaped the career of many, including myself, who practice/d Cardiology not only in Sri Lanka but around the world. I enjoyed the work so much that it was with a very heavy heart I left the CIU in September 1969 to go to UK on a Departmental Scholarship for Post-graduate qualifications. On my return with MRCP (UK) in early 1972, I was appointed Consultant Physician, General Hospital, Badulla. Shortly after that Dr Wallooppillai was appointed Cardiologist and he suggested that I state my claim to succeed him as the Physician-in-charge of CIU. Before I could do so, the Director of Health Services appointed another without even an advertisement, contrary to existing regulations! A long battle ensued and, finally, the Department offered to appoint two physicians to CIU but Dr Wallooppillai advised against taking up that appointment. Instead, he created a post of Registrar in Cardiology which I accepted in June 1973, in spite of having to step down from the position of a Consultant in a provincial hospital. I do not regret that decision as I was able to assist Walloops in developing Cardiology as a speciality. In 1975 Coronary Care Unit, the first medical intensive care unit in the country, opened and progress was relentless since. He gave me a free hand, as well as all the support, to develop the permanent pacing programme. The seeds that were sown blossomed out, Cardiology being one of the most advanced specialities in the country today. My batch-mate as well as Jeewaka hostel-mate, Dr D. P.Atukorale was due to return after training in Cardiology in Manchester in late September 1973 and Walloops got information that he would be sent to Ratnapura where there were no facilities at all. He tasked me to meet Atu at the airport and take him home with the advice not to report to work till he sorted something out which he did. Atu joined us as another Registrar. During George Rajapaksa’s time as the Minister of Health, we were re-designated Assistant Cardiologists at the suggestion of Walloops. On his retirement on 6th June 1985, I succeeded Dr Wallooppillai after a much-publicised ‘Cardiology Stake’. For about a month, newspapers were full of articles as a trade union claimed that two others were more suited to the job but I ‘won the battle’ because I had the highest number of points according to the system of selection in place. Ultimately, it was left for President Jayewardene to check the tally in front of the Minister to make the decision, it was rumoured! Undeterred, the trade union continued with strikes and other trade union actions which led to an effective division of the unit in March 1987. I was appointed the Senior Cardiologist-in-charge of the Institute of Cardiology, the other two being appointed Cardiologists. I was given the option of early retirement which I took in April 1988 which opened a new era for me. During all these turbulent times, Dr Wallooppillai was my ‘rock’. I could depend on him for advice and support in all matters. He taught me not only Cardiology but also how to fight for principles. He was like a second father to me. His wife, Yoges, who pre-deceased him, showered kindness. They had no children but brought up Yoges’ sister’s daughter, Mala, till she passed ‘O’ levels at Ladies College and returned to her family living in London. What was most impressive to me about Walloops was his absolute honesty and integrity. He reinforced the values imparted to me by my parents. He was held in high esteem and held many high positions. He was the President of the Ceylon College of Physicians, President of the Sri Lanka Heart Association for many years and the President of the Orchid Circle. His hobby was growing orchids and his garden was filled with wonderful, rare blooms. However, most remarkable was his time as the President of the Sri Lanka Medical Association in 1980, when I was the Honorary Secretary. I have served many Presidents as Assistant Secretary and Secretary of SLMA but no one equals Walloops. The monthly council meetings were a pleasure to attend. There was no straying from the points under discussion and the meetings were crisp, concise and always finished on time. Though shy by nature avoiding large gatherings and a man of a few words, paradoxically, he was a trade union leader too! He was the President of the Association of Medical Specialists for many years and demonstrated to other trade unionists that justice for members could be extracted without confrontation and trade union action like strikes, by using the art of diplomacy which he excelled in. After leaving Sri Lanka, on every trip back home I never missed seeing him. It was sad to see him gradually developing heart failure following a silent heart attack. When I saw him in February 2010, I did not expect to see him again but to my surprise I saw him again in October the same year, seeing private patients in Healthcare Laboratories. The day before his death, Mala rang me to get my address as ‘Appa’ wanted to send me a note. When I received it, after his death, I realised it was his Goodbye message. If there an afterlife, Walloops is one colossus I would love to meet again. Until then Sir, pleasant memories of a great life of service to rich and poor alike!

It’s Winter!

Winter is here in a big way

What a huge  contrast  few weeks  make
Our House surround turned to an ice lake
Even  to get out  one needs to use a  rake
Hot  Solar rays no more, it is a snow desert

Where did  the  scented, warm  breeze  go   
Colourful  Flowers, yellow  blue and  indigo
Humming noise of Bumble bees & butterflies  
Why Deserted me and where did they all go?


Editorial message,

We would like to thank the following faithful followers for their financial support for this blog,

Praxy, Ariya, Seelan, Ruthraj, Asoka, Abeypala, “Biga”(DRL) G, Titus, Thilaivasan, Sahadevan, CJ, Selvarajah and Esiri

Sam & Nisantha