Henry Jayasena Column
I get ready for the operation
The story of a cancer patient - Part
"Don't worry, your man will get married even without you. He will go
on his honeymoon too. Get someone else to witness. Your son or some such
person. But don't delay this."
There should be some gravity, some urgency here that I did not know.
Otherwise would the doctor be so insistent? Refusing to delay the
operation even by a day? This MUST be a CANCER. My mind was bringing up
all kinds of images. Will they remove a whole part of my stomach? Would
it be a cancer that has spread its tentacles all over?
Good God! Isn't it in such circumstances that they fix a bag on you?
I was breaking out in a sweat. I called the doctor again.
"Doctor, please forgive me for being a nuisance. I just remembered
"What's that?" I hesitated.
"What's your problem now?" The man was still patient.
"Doctor, Isn't it possible that you might you might fix a bag on me?
My God sir, if that's going to happen I am going to back out. I cannot
I'd rather suffer whatever comes.
The doctor laughed. Not annoyed, but rather tolerantly.
"Don't worry man," he said. "Ninety eight percent we can be sure that
a colostomy will not be necessary. Fortunately your tumor happens to be
fairly up in the colon. We should be able to remove it and fix you up
again at the correct point."
"God help me" I murmured.
"You will receive God's help. A lot of it. Don't worry."
The good doctor hung up on that note.
I have to enter the hospital on the 11th. No, not on the 13th. It
seems some tests have to be done. Heart, kidney, liver and many other
organs. In other words they want to make sure that I am fit enough to
Amidst all these things my mind was coming up with all kinds of
conclusions. Although I would brush them off like brushing something off
your body with your hands, they would come up again and again like a
caterpillar that crawls out in the night and eats up all the buds and
tender leaves of a plant.
"I am not so strong". So it is quite possible that they'll decide
against surgery. Or, if it is done it could be the end of me."
How am I to quell my mind now? Firstly, I should not be afraid. Death
is nothing to be scared of. We all have to face it someday. I will face
this ordeal without fear. I have already written a last will.
This house, whatever little savings I have, my books, my old car. All
this will go to my wife and son. Actually there is nothing I would be
loathe to leave behind.
I have done my duties well and accomplished most of the things I have
to do. My wife will have an adequate income and a roof over her head. My
only child is married.
They are both well employed and have a little house of their own,
which I built for them. And they have this little son, adorable little
tot Ah, yes lovely little Randir. My two-year-old grandson. Now when is
his "first lesson" ceremony? Ah, yes. The 26th of September. Ah.. that's
a day I would like to be around!
"You fool!" Another part of the mind taunts me. "You fool! How many
millions in this world would have undergone this kind of surgery? And
how many millions would have been cured? You idiot! Stop being a
pessimist! In any case you are a bit of a softie, aren't you? Get rid of
this kind of foolishness. At least in your old age!
Ah, yes. Old age. That's a truth. I am an old man now. Well past
sixty, nearing seventy. So what does it matter. Even if. It must be
close upon midnight now. On the 14th of March, 1999. Most of the
hullabaloo in the bus stand below is over. But it is not totally quiet.
A bus is being reversed.
Stop! Somebody is thumping the bus. Must be the conductor.
The Kalubowila main bus stand is right below our ward number 23. It
is one big din from morning till midnight. Our ward 23 is a fine little
ward. I have befriended most of the patients by now. Some have come here
from far away. There is a man from Matara, as always. A bank employee.
He is to undergo an operation similar to mine. He is always smiling.
There is a man at the other end of the ward who has lost a leg. There
is another patient from Kegalle. His operation is over and he is to
leave in a day or two, after the sutures are removed. He is about my age
or very close to it.
I am awake after a short sleep. The whole of today I have been on
purgatives. No food at all. And not even water after 10 p.m. It seems
there should be not even water in the stomach when you are taken up for
the operation. I have permission to wet my lips with water if they feel
There is no fear in my mind now. I have been able to overcome all
that. I am pleased about it. All my medical reports are supposed to be
okay. Early tomorrow morning Dr. Dayasiri will take me for surgery.
There will be Dr. Mohan Silva to assist him.
There will also be trainee doctors and perhaps a host of nurses and
attendants in the operating theatre.
It's early morning on the 15th. I have bathed, shaved and generally
preened myself for the event. I wear a white sarong and a white shirt.
Hospital procedure. Manel and Sudaraka had come early in the morning to
wish me luck. They must be somewhere near the operating theatre
I have been put on a stretcher and am being wheeled away along
endless corridors and covered pathways. I am on my back and all I can
see are white ceilings, roof beams and cobweb covered old style tiles -
Sinhala ulu. Sinhala ulu? How come in this new hospital? Not that it is
all that new but it cannot have old style Sinhala ulu.
I know a lot about this hospital. My mind goes back to the nineteen
fifties, the time I was a clerk in the Public Works Department. I was in
the Contracts branch of the department and I was in charge of all the
building construction files pertaining to the Western Province.
This hospital was one such file. In fact there were a number of files
on this hospital. Some had been closed down for being too bulky and
continued in a new file. There were other related files for subsequent
improvements and extensions etc. Thus CBD/168 [Colombo building No.168]
would have sub files such as CBD/168 A,B,C, etc.
The contractors were S.P. Muttaiah & Sons. They came to our office
regularly in connection with their contractual work. For extensions of
time, for approval of payments and so on. They asked for extensions of
time, time and again and came to meet the relevant engineers.
They would drop in at our Contracts branch too, to meet Mr.
Periyathamby, the Head of the branch. Then they would come over to our
tables and make requests.
"Please expedite this". This is urgent. We are running out of time."
And then they would say things like, "Please give a good recommendation
to our application for extension of time."
The one who came to see me often a fat young man - could have been a
son of Mr. Muttiah, or may be a relative or one of their senior
In those days the P.W.D. Public Works Department was famous for two
things. One was its overseer system. Practically all the main roads were
under road overseers. Most of these overseers came from Jaffna. [to be
Thought of the week
Is there a copyright law functioning in this country? I am aware that
there is an act called the Intellectual Property Act. I think this was
first mooted by the late Lalith Athulathmudali and has undergone several
All I am asking is whether the law under the Act is functioning
properly. Apparently it is not at least at State level. It is totally
ignored at least by the Ministry of Education.
I have referred to this lapse earlier too but not very strongly. This
time I want to make a strong case for myself and others in the same
position. This appeal is particularly to the Minister of Education. In
the school texts that are currently in use excerpts of our writings have
been used extensively.
There is a whole scene "The Vel Paalame Scene" from Hunuwataye
Kathawa reproduced in the Sinhala text for grade 9. Similarly excerpts
from other authors both living and dead are reproduced. But no royalty
payments are paid to us for such reproduction.
Not even a "by your leave" permission is obtained. Similarly parts of
my plays Kuveni and Tavat Udesanak have been reproduced. Not a single
cent has been paid to me or to anybody else as royalty.
I consider this grossly unfair. The compiler of the book is paid. And
millions are paid to the printers. Transportation and distribution are
paid for. Why ignore the very source of the intellectual material
reproduced in the texts? It can be argued that the books are distributed
In that case the compilers too should be doing a free service. And
the printers too as a service to the nation. Why single out only the
writers, who are not 'rich' men and women by any means.
I appeal to the good Minister of Education to redress this situation
at least now. I HAVE written to the Ministry about this even during the
time of Dr. Karunasena Kodituwakku.
Not even a hum have I received in reply. I do hope someone will read
out this little piece to the present Minister Susil Premjayanth, well
known as a fair and just person, for his serious consideration.