I first met Dr. V. Ganesan when we both entered the Faculty of Medicine, Colombo, University of Ceylon, in June 1962. “Ganash”, as we affectionately called him, was a batchmate you could depend on – decent, ever ready to help, and good fun to be with. He had a great sense of humour. Unlike most male medical students, he never cracked off-colour jokes that would embarrass us female students.
(Females were very much in the minority in the medical college in those days.)
I recall that Ganash lived in a house on the site now occupied by the Majestic City complex, in Bambalapitiya. In fact, the old Majestic Cinema was virtually in his front garden. We envied him, because he could so easily go for a late night show when he got tired of studying!
After completing his internship at the General Hospital Colombo (the old name for the National Hospital), Ganash decided to go into general practice. He chose Horana as his location. Through his gentle, compassionate nature, he could establish a close rapport with his patients. He gained their confidence and became a popular and much-loved family practitioner.
In “Black July”, in 1983, his surgery in Horana was burnt down. Ganash was shattered. But like a phoenix, his practice rose again from the ashes. His gentle heart forgave the people who had attempted to hurt him. He went back to Horana to resume his practice, something not many in his situation would have had the courage to do. He served the people of Horana until his demise in 2007. Crowds came to his residence in Moor Road, Wellawatta to pay their last respects. Many were in tears. Ganash was much more than just a doctor to them.
In 1988, I organised a reunion of our batch mates from medical college. Ganash was the first person I contacted, and he enthusiastically helped me track down those of our colleagues who were living in Sri Lanka. Thanks to his efforts, we had a heart-warming reunion.
Since then, we have had reunions in 1992, 1997 and in 2007, the year we celebrated the ruby anniversary of the graduation of our Class of ’62. The reunion took place at Cinnamon Lodge, Habarana. I clearly remember Ganash lustily singing popular old Sinhala songs all the way.
At each reunion, we would remark on how young Ganash looked, while the rest of us were visibly aging. With his boyish good looks and his endearing smile, he remained eternally young. I could not help but conclude that Ganash’s fresh and youthful looks were the result of clean living and an utter contentment with life, blessed as he was with a loving and charming wife, Padmini, and three beautiful and talented children, Sanjeev, Anjana and Niroshini.
He was immensely proud of his children. I got to know Niroshini quite well when she started working as a senior house officer at the Sri Jayewardenepura General Hospital. I saw in Niroshini her father’s gentle qualities. Her total dedication to her patients was no doubt something she had inherited from her father.
Another notable thing about Ganash was that he was always impeccably groomed. He always looked smart in his perfectly colour coordinated attire.
In Ganash I saw a perfect human – loving, forgiving, caring and compassionate. He was a caring healer, not just another health care provider. He certainly lived up to the ideals of medicine, ideals we often forget in this crazy rushed world of ours. “To cure, sometimes … to relieve, often … and to comfort, always.”
I was privileged to have Ganash as a friend. His demise leaves a void that cannot be filled.
Good-bye, my friend. Thank you for the impact you made on our lives. May your soul find eternal rest.
Dr. Suriyakanthie Amarasekera