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 Post subject: My Long March to Freedom
 Post Posted: Sun Feb 03, 2008 2:16 pm 
My Long March to Freedom

During my working life in England Thatcherism came and went. During her years people became obsessed with self, personal glory and money. This created an innately selfish and aggressive society which persisted throughout my professional career. Then came the health fanatics, fitness gurus and the Internet. These had a profound effect on the profession and professional standards, mostly for the better. Patients became more aware of their rights and their diseases. Twenty five years of toil had passed in the blink of an eye. In those years we raised a family and their successes filled our hearts with joy. The happiness that eluded me in those early years had come at last. Curiously with this and the advent of my retirement I feel liberated. Why would I ever want to do it all again??

By Dr. Nihal D Amerasekera
@ The Island / Sunday, February 03, 2008


It is wonderful to be free of the shackles of work. I am now paid a wage to enjoy my retirement. It all happened in April 2007. D-Day came like a bolt from the blue although much planning has occurred for months before. I was the Senior Radiologist in the department for a decade. Working with six colleagues has been a pleasure. We have enjoyed a wonderful working relationship. Bidding them goodbye made me tearful. Words failed me on that final day. After the speeches and hand-shakes came the moment to step out of the department. This has been my second home for a quarter of a century. My head was full of memories as I walked towards the car park. I looked over my shoulder to see the tall magnificent hospital for the last time. I will never be an integral part of this close community ever again.

I have been in hospital medicine for 40 years, 33 of which was in England. It has been a long, momentous and tortuous journey. There is no better time than the spring to give up work with the whole of the summer to come. Now perhaps I can put the past to rest and emerge into a different world. Survival of the fittest has a brand new meaning now.

Everyone says how wonderful it is to be a young again. I disliked being young. Although I enjoyed a loving childhood, I am happy with the passage of time. I accept the change gracefully. Maturity has brought me financial stability and peace of mind. I was a skinny kid born to a middle class family always aware I had to make my own way in life. This was the driving force for the hard work at school and beyond. As a teenager in the hedonistic late 50’s when my friends were partying I pored over my schoolbooks preparing for examinations. Thankfully it paid off. I made up for this in Medical College when I let my hair down to enjoy the fruits of my labour. Then the effervescent music of the Beatles filled the dance floors. It was a turbo-charged life of fun and hard work. Teenagers now are enticed by sex, drugs, mobile phones, fashions and unimaginable peer pressure. I couldn’t go through all that now.

Building a career didn’t come easy. While in Sri Lanka, getting a good job depended on the follies and vanities of politicians. To this day I have a profound and enduring antipathy towards all of them. England in the 70’s was cold. We were smothered by dense fog in the Autumn and frozen by piles of snow in the Winter. My youthfulness gave me some protection and I was full of hope of the good years to come.

Then there was blatant racial discrimination in the National Health Service (NHS). Despite these hardships I was fortunate to work in the best Teaching Hospitals in London. On looking back, life there wasn’t easy either. Beneath the aura and the surface charm of working in a centre of excellence there was a need for hard work and a thick skin. A strong sense of self-belief gave me the inner strength. I would be mad to want to go through all this again. During those years I met my future wife, a marriage which has lasted over three decades. After years of confused struggle the hand of destiny played its part. I was fortunate to achieve my goals in good time. It would be harsh of me to be too critical of the NHS which employed me for all these years and had given me their best job on offer. I was trained well in their institutions by dedicated people for whom I have nothing but praise. The NHS has come a long way to become an equal opportunities employer now.

During my working life in England Thatcherism came and went. During her years people became obsessed with self, personal glory and money. This created an innately selfish and aggressive society which persisted throughout my professional career. Then came the health fanatics, fitness gurus and the Internet. These had a profound effect on the profession and professional standards, mostly for the better. Patients became more aware of their rights and their diseases. Twenty five years of toil had passed in the blink of an eye. In those years we raised a family and their successes filled our hearts with joy. The happiness that eluded me in those early years had come at last. Curiously with this and the advent of my retirement I feel liberated. Why would I ever want to do it all again??

Different stages of life bring different challenges and possibilities. My task is to do what’s possible to maintain good health as long as I can. Retirement is an intense period of transition. I have to fill my days with adequate mental stimulation. Computers and networking gives me immense pleasure. This helps to keep in touch with my numerous friends now scattered all over the world. The games on my Nintendo DS helps me to think and respond quickly. For many years I have collected books which I have not had time to read. Now this precious commodity is ever present. Healthy eating and exercise are a top priority. Travelling keeps us busy and in tune with the world.

Throughout my life sports has been my passion. I watch all types of sports from skiing to snooker to darts. There are sports played throughout the year shown live on television in the UK. Football in the winter and cricket in the summer are a fine combination to hold my interest and attention. Watching a game at Lords with all its traditions and strategies is most absorbing and enthralling The champagne always flows freely until the bails are lifted. My season ticket to the grounds is my passport to heaven!

On retirement many find solace in religion. Its social scene gives them a focus. Having seen so much human suffering during my working life I have remained a sceptic and an agnostic. I have the greatest respect for the mainstream religions. Although it should offer guidance and restraint, throughout history it has been responsible for much bloodshed. Religion has played its part in maintaining human life and society. Perhaps we would all have perished if the law of the jungle persisted. The study of religions has given me a set of rules for living. Meditation cleanses the mind and is time well spent.

We are all headed in the same direction of old age, and most of us will end up alone. A grim sobering thought. The fear of old age is old as history. The fear of loneliness, boredom and helplessness remains buried deep in our subconscious minds. We must make the best use of our time. Looking too far into the future is a futile and depressing exercise. I am grateful to wake up each morning and have learnt to take a day at a time.

On looking back on my life I get immense satisfaction for having steered my own ship and chartered my own course. Without any doubt gaining entry into Medical College was the turning point in my life. I thank my parents for their love and their willingness to invest in my future. I miss enormously the peaceful Ceylon I left behind and still look for its vestiges on my journeys home. In my youth we saw the armed forces only on Independence Day Parades. I would spend the rest of my days in my adopted home in peaceful multicultural Britain. I am no longer obsessed with anything but is willing to take life as it comes facing its uncertainties with grace. I must accept my changing role in society and try to adopt a positive and enthusiastic approach to the future.


None can match the wisdom of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

Ah, fill the cup – what boots it to repeat
How time is slipping underneath our feet
Unborn tomorrow and dead yesterday,
Why fret about them if today be sweet!



Email: douglasamera@yahoo.com


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