Tribute to Dr Nisal T. Kurukulasuriya (BUNTY) – An icon in the field of Obstetrics and Gynaecology on his 6th death anniversary on 22nd December 2021
By Sunil Thenabadu
I was bewildered and dumbfounded to see the obituary notice on the internet of my venerable friend and acclaimed Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Dr Nisal T. Kurukulasuriya (Bunty) on the early morning of the 13th January 2016. According to the obituary, Bunty had passed away peacefully surrounded by his wife, children and grandchildren on the 21st December 2015 and had been cremated on the following day according to his wishes. To relieve my anguish, I sent an email immediately to his beloved wife Dayaneetha, conveying my shock and profound sorrow to which she replied almost immediately.
“Dear Sunil, Thank you so much for your message. The children and I are devastated. I lost the love of my life and a wonderful husband and my best friend. He was a great father and grandfather. We miss him so much. Sunil he was only 69. We had a very happy 45 years together. Bunty was diagnosed with cancer in 2014. We spent over 2 months in USA with our children and grandchildren and had a great time. We even celebrated his 69th birthday on 01 June 2015 in Boston. He has done so much for so many people, he did not suffer and that was the gift to him from the Gods above. He passed away peacefully with all the family around. Sunil, I looked up your e mail as I wanted to let you know because you were a sincere friend to him.”
My association with the now renowned Bunty commenced in the early 1960’s, over 56 years ago, having grown up in the same neighbourhood in Mount Lavinia and been of similar age. Until the time of his untimely demise we remained close friends. We were both instilled with the noble Buddhist precepts from an early age at the Daham Pasela of Mallikaramaya Temple under the tutelage of the Venerable Weligama Gnanarathna Anunayake Thera.
He was a proud product of the prestigious Royal College where he had an illustrious academic career coupled with a passion for cricket, having represented the College Cricket X1 in 1964 with distinction and awarded Colours. He was an all-rounder, a left arm “chinaman” exponent and a left hand batsman. Though a gifted cricketer had an equal flair for any other sport like swimming, tennis, badminton and table tennis. Playing cricket for Royal College first X1 did not deter his academic career as he was one of the best students at Royal. Having excelled in the GCE A/L in the Bio stream, he entered Medical College on his first attempt.
Bunty was the son of Charles and Alice Kurukulasuriya. He was the youngest in a family of five children. His father was an Assistant Superintendent of Mails at the Postal Department. In 1971, he married Dayaneetha, the younger daughter of former Chief Justice G.P.A.Silva and Mrs. Soma Silva.
In his inimitable approach, he breezed through the Medical College and was recognised as one of the best students in his batch. A few years after completing Medical College, he proceeded to the UK. He worked in several hospitals in England and Scotland; these include the Warrington Infirmary, Royal Infirmary Stirling, St.Mary’s Hospital, London and Hammersmith Hospital, London. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh and a Fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Upon returning to Sri Lanka, Bunty worked as a Consultant in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the De Soysa maternity hospital and the General hospital in Colombo. Bunty was also a Senior Lecturer in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Colombo for approximately 10 years. Under the guidance of titans in his field like Dr A.M. Mendis, Prof. D. A. Ranasinghe, Prof.T.Visvanathan, Prof D.E Gunatilleke and Prof.S.H.P Nanayakkara, Bunty further honed his surgical and clinical prowess. From this enviable platform, he worked tirelessly and eventually rose to become an eminent and popular Obstetrician and Gynaecologist in his own right.
Apart from his work with patients in the wards, there was a terrific demand for him in the private sector. He cared for patients in his private practice largely at St.Micheal’s and McCarthy. He treated all his patients equally irrespective of their status, creed or religion. The attention and time each patient received during his ward rounds depended exclusively on the severity of the illness or how puzzling the clinical dilemma was. He had a remarkable aptitude of just looking at a patient and making a spot on diagnosis.
Bunty refused consultation fees from friends for his services and used to tell us not to waste time outside his consultation room, just show our face by peeing in, so that he could call us in. Similarly, he did so many operations sans his fees to his many of his friends. I myself had this experience in 1994 when he performed a hysterectomy on my wife and did not charge me although I was covered by an insurance scheme. We are indebted to him.
Perhaps of greater significance than all his professional achievements was his unwavering devotation and dedication to his wife, children and grandchildren. He cultivated a unique and enduring bond with his sons and their families overseas, visiting them often. His doting daughter continued to live with him after marriage and named her son Nisal as a fitting tribute to her father whom she considered a mentor and living inspiration.
Moreover, a unique quality in Bunty from his formative years to the time of his passing was his low profile simplicity, very unassuming mannerism, his commitment and compassion and the immense love for humanity. He never accepted invitations to be Chief Guest or as attesting witnesses for weddings. My own experience of inviting him to act as attesting witness to my daughter’s marriage is testimony to this. He did participate and told me that he prefers to maintain a low profile at these functions. All these unique character traits were abundantly demonstrated during his unblemished career for well over four decades.
Bunty retired from medical practice in 2010 to enjoy even more time his family. He continued to read widely across many disciples including the Dhamma where his knowledge was extensive.
His family members, friends and patients will always remember with love and profound gratitude his deep commitment to his chosen calling, unparalled skill and above all his generous and compassionate nature. All those who hear about his untimely passing would no doubt be grieved as there would never be another individual in the calibre of Bunty.
“The flower blossoms and fades. The sun rises and descends,. But the memories, dignified and gracious deeds and accomplishments of Bunty would linger on, never to die away.”
Bunty’s passing has left his ever loving wife Dayaneetha, sons Nuwan and Channa daughter Shalini and their spouses Ayesha, Erandi and Nikita and the grand children devastated. It would my fervent hope that his journey walking through sansara would be short until he attains the supreme bliss of Nirvanna.
Sunil Thenabadu, in Brisbane ,