A Day in the Life



My shoes shined to a full gleam, my trousers pressed, my shirt ironed. Face scrubbed, teeth brushed, hair combed and tied up. Bag packed- rice and curry in my lunchbox, an apple, two notebooks, a bottle of water and an umbrella. This is how I started the day. I said a rushed “good morning” to my uncle, aunt and cousin Sasika. I sat to breakfast, ate my bread and cheese hastily, knocking back a couple of glasses of water. My uncle quietly read the paper, and my aunt rushed to get things ready. Sasika and the servant, Arungam bickered as usual, a strangely comic banter. My uncle, aunt and I exchanged a look of amusement and could not stop ourselves from laughing heartily. I finished eating, said a quick “see you later”, and stepped out the door…

Our house, a new, affluent one, sits on a hill, overlooking an area that sits on the borderline between slum and poor neighbourhood. A designation of “slum” is, I believe, somewhat suspect, as most of these cobbled-together dwellings in fact have a television, all of them have electricity, and there is ready access to clean water and sanitation.

(A side note: Interestingly, Kandy is a racially diverse area. There are large numbers of Tamil and Muslim people here- Muralitharan (who is a Tamil) is probably the most famous alumnus of St Anthony’s College in Kandy. I have several half-Tamil half-Sinhalese second cousins in Kandy, even!)

I walked briskly down to the bus-stop. The buses here, noisy, hot and packed with commuters, run every minute or so. I waited for a bus that was fairly free of congestion, then hopped on. I managed to squeeze myself into a seat within a couple of minutes. I got off near the clocktower, caught another bus that was heading to Peradeniya, and daydreamed some more.

Soon I was at the hospital. Today was the second day that the final year students would begin the last of two medical professorial appointments. We had a brief tutorial about pyrexia (fever) of unknown origin while we waited for one of the students to interview a patient with chronic renal failure. I surprised myself by knowing many of the answers. I was on fire! The student finished writing his history up, and we proceeded to the tutorial room…

“So, tell me what else can cause loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and malaise.”

The registrar, our lecturer, narrowed his eyes, focussing tightly on the student.


You could almost see the beads of sweat on his brow. The student fidgeted nervously. His history was not up to scratch and the attention of the class was upon him.

“Anyone else?”

The classroom was almost silent, nervous whispers of thoughts passing back and forth like ripples in the current. Tension so thick you could cut it with a knife. A thousand answers rose in my head and fell back again, defeated.

The creak of the door opening. We turned to see that it was none other than…

“Brendan Whiting?!?! What are you doing here?”

So it seems I am not the only Melbourne University student in my year doing an elective here- who would’ve thought?

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