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 Post subject: Dr. Benjamin David
 Post Posted: Sat Feb 25, 2006 3:12 am 
Dr. Benjamin David
He worked hard, played with joy and lived life to the full

By Andrew David

As a doctor he was highly qualified, proficient, dedicated and respected. So are many other doctors. But Benjamin had that much more which few doctors have. He loved, and needless to say, was loved by his patients.

After passing out, he served his period in outstation hospitals with the same dedication he showed subsequently in other larger and more prestigious hospitals. His skills earned him a place in the premier Ridgeway Hospital as consultant Pediatrician where he worked many years. During this time the doctors went on strike calling for a higher pay. Dr Benjamin David refused to join the strike as it was against his conscience.

When however the salary increase was granted, he donated the extra amount he received to charity every month. Thereby the timbre of the man could well be measured - a doctor to whom the Hippocratic Oath was not just a catch word. The 1983 disturbances was cause for him to leave our shores for London where he worked for a couple of years, and I believe, had one of his papers published in the prestigious “Lancet”. His next assignment in Saudi was Chief of Pediatrics Armed Forces Hospital, Tabuk and Prince Abdulla Hospital, Bisha. Stories abound of how he ran a tight ship there.

In the Sri Lanka journal of Child Health the tributes from doctors are legion about Dr. Ben David clinician par excellence, skillful communicator with parents and children, superb teacher to his juniors, students, nurses and a well prepared lecturer of scientific presentations laced with homespun anecdotes.

Ben was an angel to children. His ability to find a vein in the tiniest of babies bordered on magic. Not surprisingly with his crisp white clothes, kind eyes and ever smiling lips I know of a child who came for treatment looking for the ‘snow man’. With this highly professional and dedicated person one may well imagine that he was a staid sort of personality — nay anything but! He was the life and soul of any party or gathering.

Benja was immensely proud of the family David and in fact coined the phrase “The House of David”. Hebron in Peradeniya was the 7 acre family property owned by 7 brothers (the biblical King David was 7 years in Hebron). Benja was the only one of the 3 dozen siblings who was loved by all. From his boyhood days he had the loudest and longest laughter, the instigator of many a practical joke, a determined competitor in Badminton or quoits (his aim was deadly), a game sword fighter with sharpened broomsticks and a raconteur of many a joke, risque and otherwise. While still a teenager he lost his mother but never his determination to be doctor and over the years practically every cousin experienced his generosity and help medically, physically, mentally or financially. “Rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share” as the good book says. He was proud of any achievement by any member of the House of David and unstintingly lauded them.

On a personal note, cousin Ben in spite of his heavy schedule made special daily trips to see me over several weeks when I was hospitalized. He cast me in my first play by the day scholars at Trinity College and this ignited my love for dramatic activity over the next 60 years. After a hard days work Ben would come and watch the final rehearsal of our concerts taking notes and a trial video which he went back home and studied.

The final videos of the shows taken over 10 years are examples of his sacrifice (at 70+ imagine standing for 2 ½ hours with your gaze fixed to the eyepiece) for promotion of the Arts and love for us. He loved classical music and had a huge video collection of Operas. He invited aficionados of these great works to his home to view them. Doctors, lawyers and professionals enjoyed these evenings once a month with Lou his doctor wife, a perfect hostess, quietly and efficiently adding to that depth of warmth to the evening.

As an organizer Ben was hard to beat. Whatever he undertook, he worked out every little detail meticulously. How else could one person who worked a full day as a doctor plan to get down and host about 50 members of his extended family for his son’s wedding at the Trinity Chapel in Kandy — hiring buses, arranging pick ups, booking a whole floor of a hotel, detailing rooms, planning free time activity, bringing an organist from Colombo and of course all the nitty gritty of the wedding itself. In the same vein, every few years he loved to get the clan together (and that included wives and offspring) for a grand dinner and the happy fellowship it generated.

It was this same enthusiasm and drive that arranged a grand 50 year commemoration reunion of his batch of medicos. It amazed me that when there was dancing he remained on the floor and out jived his young nephews and nieces. On a trip to Bentota we played the inevitable ‘gudu’ and ‘7 stones’ and again he had those half his age panting and calling a halt while he continued to roar with laughter.

He loved his alma mater Trinity College. He was appalled at the general deterioration of English and decided to do something about it some years ago. He approached the “House of David” to start a million rupee fund (a huge, and to most of us, an unattainable amount) to be used for the improvement of English. But I did not bargain for his tenacity and determination. He raised the sum for Trinity College, though I suspect he met the shortfall himself. However unlike many ‘do- gooders’ of this age he believed in the scriptural advice “let not your left hand know what your right does’.

When Ben returned to this country in 1995 and started private practice he was quickly inundated with patients. This meant driving twice a day from Nugegoda to Slave Island through that eternal block at Nugegoda junction. So at the end of 6 days he, who lived till three score and 15 years, could well have relaxed on Sundays; but he was always conscious of the God who had blessed him.

He attended church, sitting unobtrusively in a corner. After service, forgoing the usual tea & fellowship, he quietly vanished and headed straight to Kollupitiya to conduct a free clinic for the poor in that area. Here was a Christian who like St. James believed that “what good is it, if a man claims to have faith but no deeds?” My cousin Benjamin will be remembered by his host of friends and relations as a large-hearted Human Being, who worked hard, played with joy, lived life to its fullest, cried when distressed and laughed heartily in happy times.

Whatever he did was in full measure and enthusiasm should have been his second name. Time, it is said, heals pain but it is going to be long for me. Through all the changing scenes of his life however his love and care of his family as husband and father never faltered. The epitome of breeding, a correct sense of values and true religion were instilled in his son, Ranjan and daughters Cherinne and Mano. I grieve with them and Lou his ever loving wife of 50 years, but rejoice in the knowledge that their loved one was indeed the salt of the earth who never lost his savour and now is in the nearer presence of our Lord.


Andrew David
Colombo 6


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