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Book reviews

Developing a medical school - concepts, constraints and challenges

Reviewed by Carlo Fonseka

Professor M T M Jiffry, Founder Dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences of University of Sri Jayewardenepura, has completed almost six years as the Dean of the Faculty. Recently, at the Inauguration of the Fifth Annual Scientific Sessions of the Faculty of Medical Sciences, the above book authored by Prof Jiffry was launched.

The book was introduced by Dr. Palitha Abeykoon, Director, Health Technology and Pharmaceuticals at the South East Asian Regional Office of the World Health Organisation (WHO). In his introduction Dr Abeykoon remarked that it was one of the few books on Medical Education which summarised and included the recent advances in Medical Education.

Dr. Charles Boelen, Director for Human Resources for health Division of the WHO, Geneva has written the foreword for this book.

Prof Jiffry has used his medical educational expertise combined with his managerial abilities into practical strategies in moulding this developing medical school towards its present status. He has described this process in five chapters. The first chapter deals with the especial nature of a medical school.

The main functions of a medical school and the attributes of its product, namely a health care professionals are spelt out.

Although in administering a medical school, we may carry out certain important acts, Prof Jiffry has methodically categorized into 14 areas the activities involved in the administration of a medical school (page 18).

He defines Medical Education as a discipline that adopts a scientific and cost-effective approach to initiate, implement, monitor and review the learning/teaching exercises adopted in a medical school to produce a graduate who is motivated to carry out self learning and competent to fulfil the current health needs of society.

Prof Jiffry goes on to describe briefly the evolution of medical education.

He concludes the chapter by stating that a medical school needs to be eternally vigilant, self-critical and responsive to the changing needs of the society it serves.

The details of the process of development of the Faculty of Medical Sciences of University of Sri Jayewardenepura are described in the third chapter under fourteen subheadings. One of the key areas amongst the fourteen subheadings which attracted my attention is 'Management and Organizational health' of an institution.

Here, in addition to the commonly addressed issues such as curriculum students, funds, research and service functions etc associated with medical school, the concept of management has been stressed. This issue has been addressed fully and very thoroughly.

The entire book is written in a concise and logical manner encompassing the salient issues related to medical education within 135 pages and using about forty-eight references.

 

Thirugnana Sampathar - the Hindu Saint

Life of Thirugnana Sampanthar by S. Sabaratna Mudaliar

Publisher: Kamara Book House

Reviewed by S. Ratnapragasam

Thirugnanasampanthar was one of the four distinguished saints (nayanmars) venerated most by Hindu from amongst a galaxy of sixty three canonised Hindu saints.

Gnana Sampanthar was not born in to this world, like other mortals, to redeem his past karma. He was sent here by Divine will so that he could achieve certain ideals in resuscitating the Hindu religion within the short period of his life. He was born with the main objective of benefiting the world. One school of thought consider him an incarnation of Lord Skanda, popularly known in South Sri Lanka as Kataragama Deio.

During Sampanthar's time (7th Century AD) Yagnas were a popular religious practice in northern India as an ancient tradition. Live animals were sacrificed as offerings in these yagna fires as the finale of the Yagna rites and the dead carcasses thereof were consumed by the participants as 'Prasath'. Tamils living in South India set their face against this horrendous religious practice; they hated it, rebelled against this form of sacrifice and started embracing religious like Jainism and Buddhism, which prohibit animal sacrifice.

Tamils proudly claim five renowned epics in the Tamil language. But Seevaka Sinthamani and Valaiyapathy the foremost of the five expound the merits of Jainism.

Manimekalai and Kundalakesi are primarily Buddhistic texts. Silappathikaram alone carries some references to Hindu religious practices. Its invocation verse makes no reference to God almighty, but hails the grace of the moon, the sun and the rain. As admitted but the two authors themselves Silappathikaram was indeed the fore-runner of the great Buddhist epic Manimekalai. Strangely little or no reference is made in these epics to the importance of the Hindu precepts and practices.

This unfortunate situation arose, as there was hardly anybody, in this period, to explain to the people the greatness of the Hindu religion and its merits. As to how one could so beautifully arrange his worldly life according to the Hindu doctrine and eventually attain heavenly beatitude, with an individual's determined effort, was not adequately explained to the ordinary masses. As a consequence, the Hindu religion lay hidden from the ordinary folk and the other religious faiths prospered. Sampanthar's advent proved highly inimical to the cause of those religions.

Another significant contributory factor was that the adherents of the Hindu doctrine then were exclusively the Brahmins. The slokas and mantras they chanted in their prayers to God were mostly in Sanskrit and the medium of all Hindu rituals were confined to the Sanskrit language, to the detriment of their mother tongue, Tamil. In this background, Thirugnanasampanthar felt it his bounden duty to propagate the Hindu religion and the Tamil language. He boldly declared himself as Tamil Gnanasampanthan and hailed (Sivaperuman) Siva, the Lord almighty, as a Saivaite.

In a brief life-span of sixteen (16) years his devotional outpourings to the Lord exceed 16,000 decades, containing well over 160,000 hymns popularly known as Thevaram "Garland to God". So says the celebrated authority Umapathy Sivachchariar. It is our great misfortune that most of these hymns were forgotten as lost and only 384 decades, comprising about 3,840 hymns are available to us today. He was a born poet and a perfect master of the musical art. His thevarams kindle in our heart true piety and love.

He displayed in his hymns the beauties of Isaittamil.

The story of the life of Thirugnanasampanthan Nayanar, the eminent Hindu Saint, is available in English in a small book of 45 pages authored by S. Sabaratna Mudaliyar of Kokuvil. It has been reprinted in 2001 by the Kumaran Press, 201, Dam St., Colombo 12.

Its first edition was a translation from Periyapuranam and it appeared far back in the year 1920. This new edition will meet the needs of the present generation and will be useful reading especially to non-Hindus.

This book which deals with his life, covers exhaustively all miracles performed by the Nayanar to relieve the suffering of persons during his extensive tour of leading Hindu shrines scattered all over South India Miracles of alien religious cannot stand a comparison with those of Gnanasampanthar. It also elaborates how Sampanthar achieved his main objective of benefiting his co-religionists who were menaced by the strong influence of heretical faiths.

Press and Politics - the old brigade

Review by Afreeha Jawad

A passing cloud of relaxation and entertainment-this in essence is M. A. de Silva's 'Bricks and Tricks'.

The light heartedness of a bygone era's politicians, the friendly banter, the nonchalant attitude devoid of the vengeance, ruthlessness and heartlessness of political personages of recent times-little over twenty years is noteworthy and emulative.

That the legislators of earlier times had a way about them in demeanour, behaviour, outlook and mannerism goes without saying - certainly this is not to substantiate their claim to being paragons of virtue. That they were above the 'fray' in that word's crudest form is worth noting.

Take the instance of H. W. Amarasuriya whose boundless verbal pomposity which held back a whole house from adjourning - a consensual pre-arrangement to attend a big 'do' of the Ministerial Board Chairman. All members were panic stricken not knowing what could be done to switch off Amarasuriya when suddenly D. S. Senanayake passed a note to Sir John,

"Please get that fellow to stop," read the note whereupon Sir John in his own inimitable style scribbled something and handed it over to the peon who delivered it to the floor holding Amarasuriya.

Thus ended Amarasuriya's verbal rigmarole and as for the note's contents, one has only to read the book and be prepared for an abdomen holding exercise.

This is but one incident, for the book is packed with such thrillers which on careful examination will reveal the lesser known characteristics of those who adorned our legislature in the years now enclaved in history. The revelry, fun and friendly animosity, the impersonal interaction even amidst strained relationship, equanimity in the face of adversity were some of the imbibed qualities of that generation of legislators.

The book also gives an insight into a political period where terror, blood letting, mayhem and abusive language were, to say the least something more than strangers.

Their dealings with the press and how the press in turn whose more than magnanimous, pro-active attitude towards the hurt is probably never to be repeated stuff in this country. That the press heeded to feelings of hurt whenever it succumbed to human failings and the stupendous heights of gentlemanliness displayed by the old media brigade is emulation worthy. That the pen had to be used with dignity and finesse was a near unwavering attribute of those journalists, whose mental elegance undeniably deserved fourth estate membership.

The book truly reflects the social composition of that day and age some whose membership comprised in the various personalities of reference.

Hillarious as it may sound, the book's introduction is nevertheless to be taken much note of for Silva says among other things,

"And if one was still at Lake House at 50 there was something wrong with one's conscience," with Silva himself admittedly not out of that list.

The book's major drawback remains intact in the form of countless typos-at times even affecting the syntax which compels the reader to wangle out the encoded stuff.

The resultant effect of semantic noise and dislodging of thought is to be forcibly overlooked for the plus points in the book.

 

Perspectives on Post-Colonial Literature

Published by Skoob Russell Square
10 Brunswick Centre
off Bernard Street
London WCIN IAE

E mail: books@skoob.com

Edited by D. C. R. A. Goonetilleke

This important collection of essays assesses the harvest of the post-colonial project. It spans an impressive range, from stimulating sceptical analysis by distinguished novelists Nayantara Sahgal and Dan Jacobson on the forces that underlie much post-colonial literature and Yasmine Gooneratne on issues of gender, to original essays by eminent critics.

The scholarly essays examine crucial general topics: Ken Goodwin on writing as a reflection of reactions to the colonial encounter, Zohreh T. Sullivan and Satendra Nandan on the discourse and experience of migrancy; Gerhard Stilz on transformations of tropical landscape; Bruce Bennett on regionalism in an Australian context and Bernth Lindfors on the actual teaching situation.

The Editor, D. R. C. A. Goonetilleke, Senior Professor of English, University of Kelaniya, is Guest-Professor, University of Tubingen, Germany, 1999-2001.His books include Developing Countries in British, Images of the Raj, Joseph Conrad and Salman Rushdie (London: MacMillan & New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998) and he has edited Joseph Conrad: Heart of Darkness (Canada & New York: Broadview Press, 2nd ed. 1999), The Penguin New Writing in Sri Lanka and The Penguin Book of Modern Sri Lankan Stories.

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