He loved the wilds as much as he loved people

Tony Gabriel

This appreciation is about Tony Gabriel in the last ten years of his life, when he resumed his love of the jungles and wildlife parks by joining ‘Venture Forth’, a group of ten whose only claim for recognition is that they all came from the same stables, and consequently have the same sense of values. Others will write about his great achievements as a surgeon, of his versatility as an actor, and his pride and joy of being a Volunteer Medical Officer in the Sri Lanka Army, where he retired as a Colonel and the Commanding Officer of the Sri Lanka Army Medical Corp (Volunteers).

Tony Gabriel was a unique character. He played many parts in life, and in all of them achieved a rare degree of distinction. As a young lad he was taken by his father to all parts of the country A?a??a?? the East coast, Trincomalee, Arugam Bay and down to Kumana Omnicef price walmart ; the wildlife parks of Yala, Udawalawe, Wilpattu and Minneriya; to Galle, Matara and Hambantota where he was introduced to Leonard Woolf’s residence and his writings; the up country and in the far north to Jaffna, where incidentally, during WWII, Tony had part of his education. It was almost as if his father was saying to him “This is your country A?a??a?? all of it. Treasure every part of it”. Many of these were camping trips, and in his early days he often carried both rifle and shotgun. Tony loved the remote countryside, the wilds, and its people, many of whom in later life trustingly turned to him for medical attention covering a wide range of diseases. He never turned anyone away.

In the 1930’s and 40A?a??a??s, camping gear was rather simple. No refrigerators then, where meat could be stored for five or more days. Food for the table was often what was brought in from the games, supplemented by tinned food such as Imperial Corned Beef, canned sausages and baked beans. During the next half century of his life he retained an appetite for these preserved food. If, perchance, you arrived unexpectedly at his country residence in Norrochcholai, it was not unlikely that he would offer you godamba roti from the village, and spam. Not exactly gourmet food, but in Tony’s mind the ideal fusion of east and west, and consequently he was nonplussed when enthusiastic responses were not forthcoming.

Well into the Biblical span of three scores and ten, he was finally allowed to retire as the Senior Surgeon of the Cancer Hospital at Maharagama. It would not be out of place to record here that for over a hundred years, post-graduate would-be medical specialists from this country went to the United Kingdom to hone their skills in their various disciplines. It was a one way traffic. But when Tony Gabriel was appointed as a Consultant Surgeon at the Cancer Hospital, the Royal College of Surgeons of England sent successive trainees for six months each, to learn from Dr. Gabriel, the finer points of facio maxillary surgery. In recognition of his excellence as a teacher and as a surgeon he was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the Faculty of Dental Surgery of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.

A rare honour indeed, which he received with his usual modesty. There was no fanfare in the local press. No reception to felicitate him. Even some of his medical colleagues were unaware of this distinction. Many of these British Surgeons remained his friends for life, with regular two-way correspondence.

After retirement, he was largely freed from the responsibility of patient care. He now joined the Venture Forth group. A motley crowd, whose age span covered twenty years, of which Tony was now the most senior. Not surprisingly they got on very well, having all been schooled during the Bradby/Corea era in the same institution at Race Course Avenue. All of them (sans les femmes) had been tutored and polished, reprimanded and even caned, and finally sent out as men rather than boys. There was a uniformity of values and ethics that encouraged the unspoken theme of “a gentleman does not tell another gentleman, what a gentleman ought to know”. No room for complaints if the spaghetti had been left behind, or if table napkins had been brought instead of toilet paper. These trifles did not bother Tony; he would cope, somehow. But most of all he enjoyed the company, the give and take of repartee which he metaphorically notched up as on a billiards’ score board. He liked to win, but applauded when he was bested. His shy smile on these occasions emphasized the sporting nature of these verbal duels.

He would rise with Reggie and Sanan, even before the cock crowed to signal the approaching dawn, and was ready to take his accustomed seat in the front. If this place was usually reserved for the map reader to guide the driver, he dismissed such notions as redundant. If one vehicle in the party turned to the north at Talamanwila towards Wellawaya, instead of south in the direction of Tissamaharama, he inferred that it was due to the immaturity of the driver in relation to the geography of the country. Fellows who don’t know ‘aA?a??A?.’ from ‘eA?a??A?’! he was wont to say. If animal or bird sightings were scarce, he often nodded and fell asleep. If the vehicle was often called to a halt, or to move just a few yards forwards or backwards at the request of the photographers in the back, he bore this with equanimity. Nary a complaint, as he felt the joy of the excursion was for the benefit of all but most of all he loved the camaraderie which followed the return to the bungalow. Not surprising, since he’d traversed these paths for many, many, years, had seen it all, and even shot leopards – or so he said.

Tony was good company. He was essentially a team man. A great raconteur, and also a very good listener. Those of us who still linger, and will perhaps make yet another trip to Yala, shall miss him. As the sun goes down in the west, we will raise our glasses and salute him, for he was, and is, and always will be, in communion with Nature.

We offer our condolences to his wife, Jeevamani, and their two sons Sanjive and Harin, and trust that it will be of some consolation to them to know that others grieve with them.

The Venture Forth group A?a??a?? Chandi and Christine Chanmugam, Reggie and Yvonne Poulier, Tony and Varini Anghie, Rudra Rasaretnam, Priya and Shirin Amerasinghe, Sanan Gunasekara.

How much prometrium to start period


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