Reminiscing – By Harold Gunatillake

 

“When I was 15, a man of thirty I would call ‘Uncle” because he was old to me and through a mark of traditional respect. When I became fifty, a man of ninety was very old to me. But on the 7th of December this year, I would be ninety and I don’t feel old.

Joan Collins said, ”Age is just a number. It’s totally irrelevant unless, of course, you happen to be a bottle of wine”.

Some of my friends say, ”I am only 18 and the rest 72 is experience”.

I was born in a little hamlet called “Hapugala” in the Galle district, and at the age of 4, my family migrated to the hill capital-Kandy 1,700 ft above sea level. That’s we are still, except my second life in Sydney, Australia.

Dec. 7th 1929, happened to be a Saturday, and this year my celebration falls on the same day, a Saturday. That coincidence is auspicious to me.

Let me now take you back to the nineteen thirties, life then, as my memory remembers, before most of you friends and acquaintances were  born.

We had no antibiotics. Just imagine the health risks people had to face globally. Alexander Flemings discovered that mushroom named penicillium only a year before I was born, that was 1928, but the antibiotic was not marketed till 1945 towards the end of the World War 11.

We had two drugs that stopped the growth of bacteria: sulphadiazine for general infections and suphadimidine for gastric upsets.

As I remember the most serious illness then was double pneumonia and when you are hospitalized for this serious illness, you do not come home

Heart disease was unheard of. It was described by Ancel Key in the fifties.

There was no place for heart disease then, our mothers’ cooked healthy foods at home. and we never ate those present day foods saturated with fat, salt and added sugar- out in the restaurants that did not exist, like today. In fact, there were no restaurants or street food outlets then. The only hotels were the South Indian hotels, we called “Saivar kades”. They were most unclean eating houses, we invariably bought the Dosai and idly, as take a ways to enjoy at home.

We had no big cars, except for the ‘Baby Austin’s”. To start the car you need to crank-shaft through

the front grills. You rotate the gadget many a times till you hear the start noise, or it may rebound and

hurt your shoulder to delay your trip by hours till the pain subsides.

We had no refrigerators. We bought large ice blocks wrapped in saw dust to prevent melting, and my

mother used to have a wooden box where meat and fish were stored with these ice blocks.

We had no air conditioners, except for fans.

We had the Bell type of telephones that gave problems most times.

Short messages were sent on postcards by post, unlike today free text messaging is so convenient and quick.

I am happy to be with you today, enjoying all the “High Tech” advances that has made our lives more comfortable. Today, if I want to contact someone locally or overseas, I just press a few buttons on my smartphone and wallah, I chat with my friend for hours, through whatsApp or Viber.

During the thirties, I remember we used to make a communication device with two empty match boxes and a taught thread to talk to other kids within a few feet away. That was then.

We should be not complacent with the wonderful life we all have today, because tomorrow will be different.

Disastrous climate changes will affect us all.

In 2016, Prof Hawking said it was a “near certainty” that sometime in the next 10,000 years, humanity would be faced with a global disaster. I am sorry to say that it is now at our door step.

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