Vannathikulam

Chapter Five

One letter was in Sinhala language. I gave it to Menike requesting her to translate it to me.
“The principal of Padaviya Maha Vidyalaya would like to know whether I could speak to the students on the 15th of this month about animal husbandry,.” Menike said.
I laughed, as I was overjoyed when I remembered that Chitra was working at Padaviya Maha Vidyalaya.
“Sir! Why are you laughing?” asked Menike.
“Nothing. You better confirm in Sinhala that I will be there,.” I told her.
I signed the letter written by Menike in Sinhala and posted it myself.
I was eagerly awaiting the dawn of next Friday. “I am going to Padaviya. Are you also coming with me?” I asked Rukman. He said that he had some work. I anticipated this response.
When I reached Padaviya, it was 10.00 a.m.. I went straight into the Principal’s Office. The Principal, Mr. Jayasinghe was a middle-aged person. From the way he spoke I found out that he was a Singhalese from Kandy. He earned my respect with his white national costume and superior appearance. It was not an easy job to perform teaching in rural areas like Padaviya. Moreover, students never showed any enthusiasm in their studies due to economic issues affecting them and their families. Only teachers from far-off places who had patience and service mentality could cope up under such environments. It was the practice of politicians to transfer those whom they hated to places like Padaviya. Mr. Jayasinghe did not appear to belong to that category.
“Thank you for accepting our invitation instantly,” he held my hand in appreciation.
“Actually I must thank you for inviting me”.
“We are under the impression that if educated people like you deliver speeches to the students, they will show more interest in Science. Under this scheme, we are inviting one person a month to speak to the students. We feel that this endeavor will give great benefits to the students in higher classes,” the principal told me.
“I cannot speak well in Sinhala.” It was a fact but not stage fright.
“It is all right. You speak in whatever Sinhala you can,” he said. When I came out of the room, Chitra was standing right in front of me.
“How are you?” With a smile, Chitra came closer to me.
.“You both carry on,” Principal said and went back to his room.
“This is your arrangement. Isn’t it?” She bowed as if she had accepted my conjecture.
“When the principal asked me whether you could come from Medawachchiya, I gave him a positive answer.”
Her red sari and the blouse of the same color reflected on her butterfly eyes. Or was she herself a big butterfly?
“You are very beautiful today.”
“Thanks.”
I wondered how her shyness sprinkled reddishness on her cheeks.
“We shall start the meeting.”
On hearing the Principal’s voice, we turned back.
The students and teachers had assembled in the Hall.
In my speech in Sinhala, I mentioned that the whole benefit of animal husbandry has not been harvested, milking has not been done from cows in places like Padaviya. Even if milking has been done yet milk has not been marketed. At last, I reiterated that people needed to bring these drawbacks to the notice of politicians.
When Chitra and the principal asked me to tell something about veterinary practice, I spoke in English. The Principal and Chitra translated my speech into Sinhala.
The Principal thanked me and Chitra. When the Principal started to speak about the final examination, I came out of the hall. Both of us stood outside the building, under a mango tree.
“Chitra! When shall we meet again?”
“When can you come to Padaviya?”
“Can’t you come to Medawachchoya?” I asked eagerly.
“I need to go to Vavuniya next Friday. I bought a wristwatch for me but I do not like it. I want to return it.”

“I must also go to Jaffna next Friday. I can join you to go to Vavuniya from Medawachchiya, if you have no objection.”
“I like that idea.”
After bidding goodbye to the Principal and Chitra, I came back to Medawachchiya. When I changed my clothes and wanted to go to Medawachchiya shopping town, Ragavan too joined me.
Ragavan said that on Saturday he had to work in the Public Works Department. I liked the innocent smile in his face.
After work, it was not possible to see Ragavan at the quarters, until 10.00 p.m.
I have asked him several times, ”Where do you go daily? Wherever you go why don’t you take me as well?”
It was Ragavan’s practice to dodge these questions. He would smile and say, “Sir! It is not a suitable place for you.”
“I want to have a hair cut. Where can I get it done?”
“There is a Jaffna Tamil barber running a shop. Come .I will show you.”
“Is it necessary to look for our countrymen, for a hair cut?” I asked.
We entered the saloon. The walls had been decorated with large portraits of Indian Tamil and Hindi film actresses. “Sir! How are you?” a heavily built personality came from the rear side of the saloon and asked me.
He appeared to be a ‘holy Saivite’, as he had applied holy ash not only on his forehead but also covering his half- bold head.
“Brother Arumugam! Why don’t you give a haircut to our Sir?”
“Please have your seat.”
“Sir! You are from which part of Jaffna?” .
“Kokkuvil”
He started to show his talent on his hair dressing.
“How long have you being working here at Medawachchiya?”
“Two weeks”
“Where do you reside?”
“At the Government quarters.”
He stopped his hair dressing nduties and in anger told Ragavan, “ Not only you are staying there but you have taken this gentleman also with Che-Guevara Karayas?” I was shocked to see the temper in his tone.
“Actually it was I who went there. Ragavan has nothing to do with my choice of residence,” I told the truth.
“The Police know well that all those residing there at the quarters are JVP sympathizers. It is not advisable for you to continue to reside there. The present state of the country is very bad. Sir! I have just told you what I have in my mind.”
I paid for the haircut and some extra as well and walked out of the saloon. I started walking along Kandy road. There was a weaving center along that road.
The Medawachchiya Dispensary was situated just in front of it.
“Ragavan” – A female voice came from that direction. I also looked back.
In the compound next to the weaving center, two ladies were standing under the shade of a mango tree combing their hair.
I looked at Ragavan. “You better proceed. I will join you later,” said he and went towards the two ladies. I continued my walk towards the quarters thinking that Ragavan was missing after work on account of this factor.

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About noelnadesan

Commentator and analyst of current affairs.
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