Vannathikulam-Chapter Eight

Round Rocky Stratum

I was anxious to tell Chitra the news that my parents have given their consent for our marriage. I continued to work in the office. I had to work day and night to ensure that the domestic animals in Medawachchiya were given vaccination before the start of the rainy season. While cursing myself I completed my work and went to Padaviya on Saturday.
When I went to Chitra’s house, She was waiting at the entrance expecting me to turn up,. She looked like a bunch of flowers as she was wearing a flowered blouse and a flowered pyjama.
“My parents have given consent”, I told her while grapping her hands.
“Is it true?” her eyes parted in excitement.
“Promise”, I made a vow by striking my hand on her head, as I knew that she did not believe it.
“It is painful”, she whimpered.
“My dear”, I embraced her.
“Mother is coming”, saying so she withdrew from me.
“Welcome, Sir. How are you?”, Chitra’s mother asked me.
She said, “Thank God”, when I mentioned that my parents had agreed.
“How are they?” she asked the usual question.
“Chitra! Are you coming to Padawiya?” I asked.
She looked at her mother.
“Go and come back safely”, she gave permission. She went inside the house and came out dressed in a half-skirt. I was surprised to see her in that dress but it was very attractive. She did not look like a teacher but like a college student wearing a sports skirt exhibiting her thighs. For the first time, the sight of her legs gave me a glamorous sensation.
She got up onto the pillion of the motorcycle, grabbed my waist and waved at her mother.
“I would not have bought a saree if I had seen your beautiful legs earlier”, I teased her after moving a short distance.
“I will punish you.” saying so she tried to close the lower part of her thighs. The speed of the motorcycle was in my favor and the skirt went further upwards.
“I will present you only half-skirts in future.”
“If that is so then I am not going to wear half-skirts in future.”
“Sorry. I won’t make any comments like that in future.”
We both reached Padaviya Tank bund. The water in the tank resembled purified gold. The waves seen in between reminded us that it was water. We got off the motorcycle and walked along the bund. Several people were bathing in the steps of the bund.
“There are several people who knows me.” Chitra dragged me along another route.
“Who are the people there?”
“They may be some of my students.”
On the other side of the tank, water was deep. No one was seen there. There was a large round rock stratum on the edge and a banyan tree by its side. We could see only the water in the tank when we sat down on the rock. The banyan tree and bushes concealed us from the other sides.
“Chitra! It is very cool here.”
“Sure”, she was looking in all directions.
“What are you looking for?”
“What would they think if anyone sees us?”
“It is alright“, I dragged her and made her to sit by my side.
“Do you know that under the shadow of a banyan tree and artesian well water is cold in the hot weather and warm in the cold weather?”
“Who told you?”
“It is said so in Tamil literature”
“What else is there in Tamil literature?”
“There is another place which is hot in cold weather and cold in hot weather”
“What is it?”
“Come closer to me”, I dragged her and plunged my head on her breast and said, “This is that place.”.
“You and your literature are …”
“Hey! Even if I am not nice do not talk ill of our literature.”
Chitra fondled my head silently.
“Chitra! Have you heard of a Tamil book called Thirukkural?”
“Of course
“It is said that the saliva of a girl is like a mixture of milk and honey”
“Why are you so engaged in literature today?”
“Because…I am with a beautiful girl by my side.’ I bent and laid myself on her lap.
“What did your parents say?”
“’It is not possible to come to Jaffna if you get married to a Singhalese girl. It is not possible to live in Sinhala areas when there is civil commotion. Think of these circumstances and get married’. It was my father’s advice. My mother said, ‘It is all right if you are happy’. On the whole I have got my mother’s wholehearted consent and my father’s acceptance with a precautionary warning.”
“What did you say?”
“Sinhala cuckoo had punched my heart and taken it.”
“Talk seriously. You can have your jokes at a later stage.”
“What I said? I saw a girl called Chitra. I have not seen the language, race or religion but I have found that affection is spurting out of her heart”, I told her.
“Did you exactly say that?” two drops of tears slipped from her eyes and fell onto me.
“Hey! You crying beauty.“, I embraced her head, gave a kiss on her lips and said that Thiruvalluvar was an experienced person.
A hearty smile was her only response.
“Chitra! We are going to have our registration of marriage on the third of next month.”
“What? What?” she was shocked.
“It will be at Medawachchiya.”
“There is only two weeks. Why are you in such a hurry?”
“I have taken a decision after thinking several times. The Jaffna political climate is not so good. Problems may develop at any time. You can come with me to Jaffna to see my parents after the registration of marriage. The ceremonial marriage can be held with the participation of all, once the problems are over”
“I totally endorse your will with pleasure. What am I to do with my job at Padaviya?”
“Take three months leave. We could get a transfer to Medawachchiya within that period.”
“Shall we go now? Mother may be looking for us.”
I got up from the round rock stratum and walked forward.
We arrived at Chitra’s home to see Bandara and Rukman staying in the front yard.
Chitra ran inside the house.
“How are you, Bandara?”
“Fine. But your brother-in-law is not good”, Bandara ridiculed Rukman.
“How is the political situation?”
“Most of the laboring class and youngsters are supporting us.”
“Sinhala workers”, I stressed.
“Tamil workers will also support us.”
“Have you forgotten the ten lakhs of Tamil plantation workers?”
“Once they realize that Thondaman and United National Party are deceiving them they will come over to our side.”
“The plantation workers in the hill country are the backbone of Sri Lanka’s economy. Sri Lankan Government knows pretty well that without the assistance of these masses it is not at all possible to launch any revolution.”
“What can we do now?” – Rukman asked.
“When there was a cry for their rights, No one cared. When Plantation workers citizenship status was taken away, again when the government tried to send them back to India, no one uttered a word. Not only the Sinhala leftists but also Tamils of the north and east need to be held responsible. By this action, Sinhala workers lost their labor might. The Tamils of the North and East lost their Tamil-speaking brethren.”
“There is truth in what you say”, Bandara accepted.
We all started having our lunch after Bandara left.
While having our lunch, we heard the sound of a vehicle. Chitra who was serving food went outside. When she came back signs of a calamity was visible in her face.
“What has happened, Chitra?”
“Police have come.”
Rukman and I washed our hands and came out of the house. Padaviya Police Inspector and four constables were waiting outside the house. I knew inspector Chandrasiri when I attended to the postmortem of the elephant at Padaviya and during the court case that dealt with illegal transport of bulls.
“Doctor! What made you visit this area?”
“I came to immunize cattle here” I lied.
“It seems that you are now familiar with the place.”
“Definitely. What made you come here?”
“I want to talk to Rukman. Rukman! Can you come this way?” he took him closer to the Jeep and talked to him for a few minutes.
Chandrasiri came and said bye to me.
“Rukman! What is the matter?”- I asked.
“Nothing.”
“If there is nothing, why did the Police come here?” Chitra interrupted.
“Let us now go and continue with our lunch.”, I saw signs of anxiety in Rukman’s face. We went inside. Chitra and Rukman were seated on either side of the table.
“Brother! What is the matter?” Chitra asked again.
“He told me not to engage in politics. If not I will be arrested.”
“The J.V.P. is not a proscribed party.” I argued.
“The Government is on a double acting game. It’s aim is to get aid from foreign countries. We have received a message that the Police have arrested two comrades at Teldeniya and shot one of them”, Rukman replied with disgust.
“So, what do you intend doing?”
“I cannot stop my political activities for fear of the Government. We are doing our politics in a peaceful manner.”
“But it is essential to take extreme care in your activities.”
“I am scared”, Chitra’s voice staggered.
Chitra’s parents did not hear this conversation as they were in the kitchen.
“What did the Police want?” Chitra’s father inquired innocently.
“They came to this area so they just dropped in“, Rukman said.
Rukman stayed with us till about 10.00 p.m. and then went out saying that he wanted to meet a friend.
Chitra brought me a mat and a pillow to sleep in the front verandah. There was only one room in her house. It was for her use. Her parents used the front part of the house. For the day they had moved to the kitchen.
“Why are you making me sleep outside? What is your intention?” I questioned Chitra.
“With very good intentions”, she stretched the mat.
“Where are you going to sleep then?”
“Within the room.”
“Can I change my clothes in your room?”
“Yes. sure.”
I went inside, changed my clothes and told her to bring some cold water. She came with a cup of water. I hugged her with the cup.
“I knew that you will be up to this.”
“That means you too expected it?” she did not answer.
“Chitra dear! Why are you silent?”
“I was happy from the time you arrived. But I am frightened about my brother’s matter.”
“I understand your fear. But Rukman is not going to heed to either you or me. You firmly believe in God. The only thing to do is worshipping.”
“It is very easy for you to say so!”
“I am telling from my own experience. I have seen several incidents in Jaffna. Just forget your brother for the time being and think of me”. While saying so, I embraced her. From the way she fell on my lap, I knew that she had already forgotten her brother.
The gentle breeze passing through the luxurious paddy field behind her house gave me immense pleasure. The sound of ears of rice-corn produced a peculiar music. However, the croaking noise of frogs dispersed the silence like Inspector Chandrasiri did.
“Are you sleeping?” I woke up Chitra from my lap.
“No. You have allured me.”
“Have you told your mother that the marriage is fixed for the next month?”
“When I told her, she asked as to why you are in such a hurry?”
“What did you say to her?”
“I said that you are always a person of haste”.
“A pearl swimmer who dives in the sea will come back no sooner than he collects the pearls. Give me a kiss. I am always a hasty person.” I said and kissed her. I found out from the movement of her lips that she was going to retort. I thought that in western countries they had made it a habit to kiss frequently, presumably, to shut the talkative mouths of women. I tightened my grip altogether.
When she woke me up, it was late morning. My wristwatch kept under the pillow showed that it was 9.00 a.m..
“What is the reason for your long-long sleep?” she asked me with as gentle smile.
“You did not allow me to sleep in the night.”
“Say softly.”, she alerted her glances all over.
“I told you the truth. When did you get up?”
“I went to sleep in my room at about 4.00 a.m.”
“You are very clever. You have just brought me a plain tea. In our villages, the practice of the wife is to give egg-coffee on such days.”
“What is the connection between this and the eggs?” she asked innocently.
“I will give you an explanation leisurely after I get married to you. Has Rukman come back?”
“My brother came now only and he is taking a bath.”
“I must also take a bath and get back to Medawachchiya. I am going to Jaffna next week. There I will have to buy sarees and other things that are needed. I want your photograph so that I can show it to my mother.”
After having a bath, I went back to Medawchchiya. There was no one in the lodge as it was a Sunday. I went to Arumuga Anna’s saloon to take a haircut.
“You want a haircut?” Arumugam inquired. It had been my habit to watch the posters of cinema actresses in the saloon and appreciate their beauty.
“I notice parity of status in your saloon.”
“Why do you say that?”
“You have given prominence to Malini Fonseka along with Tamil actresses. That is why I said it.”
“Oh yes!“ he laughed. We both laughed together.
“Sir, Do you know the news at our place?”
“I have not gone there for a while now. You better tell me.”
“It seems that Anaikoddai Police station had been smashed. It was a severe thrashing. Boys are clever”.
“Who did it?”
“Some say it is Tigers. Others say it is a faction separated from them. Whoever it may be, they have done it perfectly.”
“Is that so?”
“Your talk seems indifferent. The Government must be taught a good lesson.”
“Arumuga Anna! As you said, it is a good thing that they have demolished the Police station. What you said about a parted faction made me think. Tamil society has decided to resort to arms. But I think that if they start to carry arms and go in parting ways, the amount of people who are going to be killed will be more Tamils than the Armed forces of the Government. It is nothing new to us. When Tamil Congress Party and Federal Party confronted each other, there were no human losses. It was limited just to creating chaos by throwing some stones or to cursing some as ‘Traitors’ in public platforms. But if the armed militants part in their ways, then the situation will be very dangerous.”
“What can we do? What ever happens let it happen. Sir! I have heard a story. Excuse me if I am wrong.”
“You can ask. I have entrusted you my head.”
“I have heard that you are having a small relationship at Padawiya.”
“Who told you?”
”Someone. I am unable to remember.”
“Do you know Rukman?”
“Is he the J.V.P. Rukman?”
“Rukman’s sister. I am going to get married to her.”
“Sir! Are you mad? I have told you earlier not to stay in that lodge.” he stopped cutting hair and struggled as if he was in some kind of trouble.
“What is the worry now? First complete cutting my hair.”
“Not that. Did your people agree?”
“No.”
“I wish to suggest that you take a transfer and go to Jaffna.”
“I am going to get married with whom I like.”, I paid Arumugam for the haircut.
“Sir! You are educated.”, he kept the cash in his drawer.
“You must attend my marriage ceremony.”
“How can Sir’s marriage happen without my taking part in the ceremony?”
It was 6.00 p.m. on Monday when I reached the lodge. I had a heavy load of work to attend to in my office. I was surprised to see Mr. Suppiah.
“How are you?” I asked him. He smiled and said that he was all right. Though he was pulled down, his smile was still there to be seen.
“Did you get good food in the Police station?” Gunadasa asked sarcastically.
“You are talking of rice and curry or the beatings?”
Gunadasa’s face turned pathetic.
“Let us syndicate 5 rupees each. We must celebrate the release of Mr. Suppiah from jail.”
It was my suggestion. We gave 100 rupees to Ragavan to buy a VSOA and two kilos of mutton.
“Sir! You have not told the news to Mr.Suppiah.”
“What is that?” I asked.
“Your marriage to Rukman’s sister.”
“Is it true?“ Suppiah asked.
“Yes.”
“Accept my congratulations.”
“We have decided to drink ‘Black and white’ to celebrate.”, Gunadasa said.
That was a happy day in our lodge. Rukman did not take liquor. I remember that the J.V.P. members were prohibited from taking any liquor. We appreciated Ragavan’s cooking and had a good meal.
Burning of Naachchimaar Temple
I took leave on Friday as it was decided to have the registration of marriage on Saturday at Madewachchiya. I was able to find a corner seat, as there were not many passengers in ‘Yarldevi’. I closed my eyes and started thinking of Chitra. The thoughts of her created a pleasant feeling in my mind. Though some passengers boarded the train at Vavuniya still my thoughts remained intact.
I stopped my dreaming when I felt hungry at about 7.00. p.m. and then started to think of the future program. At least I must take my mother to Medawachchiya. My father may refuse to attend. Apart from these, I need to tell about all the happenings to my ‘machchal’, Parvathy. Though she is ‘machchal’ yet I call her ‘akka’, as I am younger to her by 8 years. They proposed a marriage to Parvathy akka when I was 12 years old. He was her ‘machchan’ and was a shop owner in Colombo. He was terribly dark in complexion. He had not received more than a primary education. Though Parvathy akka had not learned in the higher grade, she was capable of showing her intellect in running commentaries of Kalki and Jeyakanthan. To some extent Parvathy akka may be called my ‘guru’ in my literature studies.
This unforgettable incident still resides in my mind. One day I was playing with her younger brother, Ramanan. Parvathy akka who was collecting garbage behind the house called me.
“What?” I asked her and went there. Her face was full of sorrow.
“Do you know the special news?”
“What is the news?” I was eager to hear.
“They have proposed a marriage to me. Do you know who the bridegroom is?”
“No, who is it?”
“Mr. Maniam. You do not know him. He is coal black. He is related to us. But he had not studied above 8th standard in school and owns a shop in Colombo.”
“That is correct. How is his character? Does he have a liking for you?“ I asked her as if I was a grown- up person.
“Hey! How do we know the character? They have said that they do not want dowry and that they will also meet the wedding expenses.”
“Is he a drunkard?”
“I have heard that he is not in that habit.”
“Then what? There is a proverb that it is better to choose a donkey which likes you than a horse you prefer.”
“But, they are from the south.”
“What do you mean by saying that they are from the south?
“You do not know about that. That is a long story. Those days when a Muslim gets married to a girl in the north and get settled in the south, we used to call those living in the south as Muslims.”
“Do you think that is a great problem?”
“It is not a big problem for me. But I wanted to console my mind by expressing it to another person.”
“Then you better give consent to the marriage.”
“Good.”
This dialogue was still fresh in my mind. Parvathy akka was the only person who respected me and spoke to me frankly. I was proud that her marriage took place because of my involvement. And there was another reason for this thinking.
Parvathy akka’s younger sister, Kala, had been admitted to the Nainativu hospital due to diarrhea and vomiting. This had happened the day before the scheduled wedding. Her aunt was there with her on the first day in hospital. On Parvathy akka’s wedding day, either Ramanan or I will have to be there at the hospital to look after Kala. On the day of marriage to Kala, it was my turn to become a nurse,, as Ramanan needed to be present as bridegroom’s Tholan.
It was the first marriage ceremony I wanted to witness. That was the first marriage that took place when I had become a matured person. I had several dreams in my mind. I liked bursting balloons and dragging decoration crepe paper of different colors. I wanted to ask them to play my favorite cinema songs. I cursed Kala for having dashed all my dreams. Kala had a nickname called ‘boiled food‘. Though she was only seven years old yet she had a foul mouth. I would have shouted her nickname about thousand times. I could still remember her blink as if she had a tremendous perching on that night. That is why I had a liking towards Parvathy akka. She had told several times that I was fully responsible for her marriage.
While I was recollecting my past, the train arrived at the Kokkuvil railway station. At the station my brother was waiting for me. My mother must have forced him to come to the station. He did not succeed in his first attempt at the University admission examination. When we pressed him to sit for the second time, he would say that it was not at all possible to bypass the standardization carried out on district basis for university admissions. He would go around the village in a busy manner saying that he wanted to go overseas. When I pointed out that I entered University by bypassing all these barriers, he would say that it was five years before. I got up and sat on the front bar of his bicycle and asked him, “What are you doing now?”
“I am ‘riding a horse’.”
“What do you mean by ‘riding a horse’?”
“I am sitting for the G.C.E examination in lieu of a friend of mine. I will be paid four thousand rupees if he gets 5 credits. I intend going overseas with this money.”
“What will you do if you get caught?”
“I won’t get caught.”
“Does your father know this? You will get booted out if he comes to know about it.”
“It is all right to get booted out for four thousand rupees.“, he was realistic.
“Leaving aside the booting out, you are deceiving the government.”
“Government is deceiving the whole nation. Have they not deceived you? You studied veterinary science when students who had obtained lesser marks were posted to do medical science. Is it not deceiving?”
“Forget about that. You are deceiving yourself.”
“No. I am taking a risk and helping another.”
“What is he going to do with the 5 credits of your’s?”
“He will obtain employment in a Bank.”
“Then Bank will function properly!” I got down from the bicycle and went inside the house.
I kissed my mother and went to take a bath in the well, before having dinner, . The well water was cold as it was about 9.00 p.m. But it provided a gentle pleasure to my body which had perspired due to traveling by train.. With every bucket of water running from head downwards I felt like a beautiful girl was embracing me. After strenuous traveling, bathing becomes a massaging experience. This is the special resource of Jaffna. I have not seen so many ground wells anywhere else in the island.
For dinner my mother had cooked crab curry with pastry (pittu). My mother knew that I was fond of crabs. The crabs had more flesh and spawn during the times of new moon. I would mix the Sinai with pittu and then eat the mix. As I was so fond of crab and drumstick curry, I ate stomach full. “Amma! I want to tell you one thing”, I said while spitting crab shells.
“What is it you want to tell me?”
“Crab and drumstick curries are fine.”
“Leave the food alone. What do you want to tell me?”
“I am going to have the registration of marriage. The ceremonial marriage can be held when it is suitable.”
“Do not tell me. Tell your father.”
“What has he got to say? He is doing things according to his will and pleasure. Let him do what he wants., he replied from outside while puffing out a cigar.
I did not want to argue with him. I extracted remnant flesh by sucking the crab-shell, chewed the drumsticks and spat the remainder out.
I was thinking for a while and after going closer to him called him, “Appu”.
He puffed smoke from the cigar.
“Registration of marriage is at Medawachchiya tomorrow. Can mother and you come there?”
“What?” he was shocked and his voice showed signs of shivering.
“How are we to come to Medawachchiya?”
“Why don’t you listen to this matter with patience!”
“You can stay at Medawachchiya safely. I can assure you. It is not possible to give protection to Chitra’s parents in Jaffna, especially during these election times.”
Amma and Appu remained silent.
“There is a point in what my brother says”, Ravi commented while coming out of his room.
“We never asked you. You and your points”, she scorned at him.
I took Ravi’s bicycle and said, ”I will come back after visiting Parvathy akka.”
“Why at this time?” my mother anguished.
“You all sleep. I will come back soon.”
“Who is that?” when I opened the gate of Parvathy akka’s house, a voice questioned me.
“It is me.”
“Why are you coming at this time? When did you come from Medawachchiya?”
“Just now.”
Parvathy akka was a family person. She had four children, two boys and two girls. She was looking after the family. Her husband was in Colombo.
“Akka! I suppose all children are asleep. I can’t hear their sound.”
“They have gone to bed. I am also about to go to bed.”
“It is only 10.00 p.m. now?”
I am tired of cooking food for the four children. Also I heard some news about you. Is that true?”
“What news?”
“That you are going to get married to a Singhalese girl.”
“Who told you?”
“Cheap goods will arrive in the market”, she told me with a sarcastic smile.
At that time Akka’s small cat vocalised in a special tone.
“What is this vocalising of the little cat?”
“Leave it. This is the oestrus season. The cat is searching for a tom cat.”
“What is the age of the cat?”
“Eight months.”
“Akka! I am now 25 years old”, I smiled.
“It has become a routine for you to tell a story after coming across dogs and cats for treatment.”
“It keeps feeding me.”
“Okay. What is the name of the girl?”
“Chitra. Name of a month.”
“How is she? Is she beautiful? You would not have got caught had she not been beautiful. What does uncle say? He will jump at you. How are you going to appease him?”
“My father says that it is not possible to have my family in Jaffna. But he does not know that all the residents of Jaffna are migrating overseas. Even if I get married to a Tamil girl, I do not think I could live here. There are not many employments available in Jaffna. You better tell my father. I am going to get registered at Padaviya. If time suits then we can have the ceremonial marriage later.”
“Why are you in such a hurry?”
“I am not in a hurry. I do not want others to make my relationship with her a scandalous one. Besides I am of the opinion that if a complicated problem is postponed till later it will get further complicated.”
“Do you expect anyone from Jaffna to attend?“
“No. I do not expect anyone, in this situation. You should tell them.”
“I will try. Do you want any money?”
“Your kind thought itself is worth ten hundred thousand rupees. I am off.”, I told her and went out.
While I pushed my bicycle towards the gate braided with palm leaves, Parvathy akka too came out with me. At that time several vehicles were traveling at terrible speed along Kokkuvil station road. An enormous number of bicycles followed them.
“What happened?” I asked one of those persons.
“Army is firing.”, he rided while shouting. Men and women had taken to their heels behind the bicycles. One of them stopped for a while on the road to briefly tell us about what had happenned.
“At the meeting held in front of Naachchimaar Temple two policemen were shot dead by the boys. Army is assaulting the people. They are also setting fire to the temple”
“Dirty fellows are setting fire to the temple”, Akka said.
“Where are you going now? Why don’t you come and stay in the house and go back leisurely”, I invited the person who told us the news.
“I am from Thirunelvely. I can manage to get back.”
“At least have a cold drink and go”, Akka went and brought a pot of water.
“Who was the speaker on the stage when this incident happened?” I asked him while he was drinking water.
“The shots were heard when President Sivasithamparam of the Tamil United Front was speaking.”
“Who shot the policemen?”
“Who knows? Some are saying that Tigers have shot them. Who knows whether it is the work of the army itself or not?”
“Thanks”, the person who was about 50 years old went away hurriedly.
“You better stay back and go later”, Akka told me.
“No worries. I can go through the lanes.”
I returned home in the dark through the small lanes. When I reached home, I found my mother seated in a chair at the entrance of the house.
“Why are you so late? Army is thrashing people”, she said.
“I got late as I was coming through small lanes. Who told you about the incident?”
“Ravi came from that place.”
“I am going to sleep. I will have to go to Medawachchiya tomorrow.”
“Son! Do you still want to go in spite of this situation?”
“How can I stay back without going?”
“Did he ever listen to you? You don’t trouble him.”
My father told my mother while he was lying down on his bed in the verandah. Preferring not to antagonize my father I kept quiet. After stretching the mat on the verandah I went to sleep. Within a short time, my mother applied holy ash on my forehead, placed the bed sheet and then went to sleep.
Burning of the Public Library
It is not proper to say that I got up early in the morning but to say that in the night I did not sleep well. After having the cup of coffee my mother gave me, I boarded the train at the Kokkuvil Railway station.
Gamini had brought my motorcycle and was waiting for me at the Medawachchiya Railway Station. We both went to the lodge and then proceeded to Padaviya. I had entrusted driving to Gamini, as my mind was full of many thoughts. We did not talk anything until we reached Kebbilitigollewa. Gamini could not tolerate my silence.
“What did happen at home?”
I related all that happened at home and about the burning of the temple by Army personnel.
“The Army personnel have gone down to this degrading level. When places of worship are destroyed, people will never forget that even for hundred thousand years. Now they are also sowing the seeds of racial conflict by saying that South Indian Kings have demolished Buddhist shrines.”
“What you say is perfectly true. In India, politicians are now carrying on their activities by telling stories that had happened about 400 years ago. It is easy to convert religious faith of innocent masses into violence.”
“Our politicians are very clever in this respect. As far as I know the sanctity of humanitarian principles are being increasingly flouted in Sri Lanka.”
“You can’t say that in to-to.”
“It appears that I am traveling in a desert.”
“You are going to have your registration of marriage tomorrow. Therefore keep yourself very happy”, Gamini advised me and parked the motorcycle in front of Chitra’s house.
There were several family members present. I could clearly notice their enthusiasm and happiness. Chitra had dimples in her cheeks. It became visible only when she was pretty happy. When I saw the dimples, my thoughts full of sorrow melted away. When she caught my hand I felt as if I was flying in the air. She had not decorated herself much by means of dressing up. She wore a blouse and wrapped in a flowered piece of cloth as a substitute for saree. It reminded me the frescoes in the famous Sigiriya paintings.
I was not in a position to verbally express my thoughts. Instead, I squeezed her hand tightly.
When her mother questioned me as usual, I did not elaborate about what happened in Jaffna. Some times, it was better to censor some news. If not they would worry themselves unnecessarily. Apart from that, we also had to worry ourselves because they were worried.
Chitra’s father told that he would be coming at 10.00 a.m. for the registration. Rukman and Gamini went out saying that they wanted to meet a friend.
“Chitra! Get on to my motorcycle.”
She held with her hands my waist more tightly than at any other occasion and asked me where we were going.
“If you hold me like that we can’t go anywhere, because I can’t ride my motorcycle”, I told her.
“Then I am not holding you at all.”
When she was pretending to be getting down, I accelerated the motorcycle. She hugged me again as she did not have any other alternative.
“Chitra, dear!”
There was no sound from her.
“Are you angry again?”
“You are not going to talk to me!”
I stopped the motorcycle near the Padviya tank bund.
“While traveling in my motorcycle I saw two dimples. Now when you smile I do not see the dimple on your cheek anymore”, I wanted to tease her again.
“Okay. Where do you find the other dimple?”
With my finger, I pointed at the navel in her stomach.
“Go away”, she closed her waist with her hands. We both did not talk to each other. We were there from noon till sunset. Though no words exchanged between the two of us, we had a dose of electric voltage that changed from high to low. I could recollect, from a book that I had read earlier, that human relationships were built on the foundation of feelings of love. Love adorns lust. Then it becomes an art form. Music and sound differ. In a similar manner, love and lust also differ.
It was 7.00 p.m. when we reached home. A Petromax lamp gave plenty of special light to Chitra’s house. As it was an area closer to the paddy fields, the light attracted many insects and the heat of the lamp killed most of them. Rukman and Gamini were waiting with Chitra’s parents. Dinner was ready. We discussed many subjects while having dinner.
When I tried to talk about politics Gamini and Rukman diverted away from the topic. I did not mind even though it looked strange to me. I came to the front yard after having dinner. There were many colorful crepe paper decorations. When Chitra and myself had gone to Padaviya, Gamini and Rukman would have attended to those decorations.
“Gamini! Why are you unhappy?”, I asked him when he followed me to the front yard.
“Nothing”, he said.
“In the night, the Army and Police have jointly burnt down the Jaffna Public Library.”, Rukman told in a rough voice. I felt as if I was struck by lightening.
“How do you know?”
“We got the message from the J.V.P. comrades who came from Vavuniya.”, Rukman said.
I became speechless. I was experiencing inexpressible feelings that choked my throat with a growing anger in my chest and mounting abomination in my stomach. That is why in ancient Chinese medicine it is said that negative mental feelings would harm constituents of the body? I sat on the chair that was by my side. I could not talk to anyone for several minutes.
“It is a dirty job”, Gamini broke the silence.
“It seems that Ministers Cyril Mathew and Gamini Dissanayake went to Jaffna yesterday night”, Rukman said.
“Truly?”
“The United National Party Government must take full responsibility for this destruction”, Rukman said angrily.
“During World War II, German Air Force was given categorical instructions not to bomb Oxford and Cambridge Universities. It was an order given by Adolph Hitler. In this case Gamini Dissanayake had even surpassed Hitler”.
“They have done it with the knowledge that Jaffna Public Library is instrumental in making Jaffna people prosper in their education.”, Rukman said.
“This is a false notion. They introduced standardization with this idea in mind. The militant organizations sprang up as a result of the standardization. Even the educated students started to have faith in the armed struggle. Even schoolboys said that it is of no use going to school and started joining militant organizations voluntarily. The youth-cadres who were more educated became their leaders. The issues such as burning of the Public Library will push the entire people towards armed struggle. When an armed struggle commences through incidents of this nature, it would be natural that revenge, enmity and swift justice automatically take the upper hand. There won’t be any humanitarian and intellectual approaches to these issues. Then not only the Government but the entire country will go down to the rock bottom.
“It is false propaganda to say that people in Jaffna are studying. If people living in Kandy are uprooted and dispatched to Jaffna then they will also study there. There is no fertility in our soil. If you grow pepper in Kandy in half-an-acre of land, you can get more revenue than that of a doctor or an engineer. We own several acres of land in the place where I was born. But we do not have good water. Therefore whoever who have the resources are studying. Whoever who cannot, are going to the south of the country to do business. As Island’s economical devolpments are based in Colombo which is the central zone for all trades, Tamils are going to South Sri Lanka. This is the fault of the Government.”
“No one needs to fear anything. If Comrade Wijeweera comes to power everything will be smooth”, Rukman said with hope.
“Rukman! It is impossible to create a peaceful atmosphere after showing this much of ethnic hatred. With Wijeweera you are also in a dream world”- I told with frustration.
“Okay. Now let us have dinner.”, Gamini invited me inside.
It was a nice meal. Nevertheless, I could not eat. Chitra did not talk. I thought she would have also come to know about the incident.
“We all have to get up early morning. Please go and sleep”, Chitra said.
“Sister is in a hurry”, Gamini smiled and took Rukman with him.
Secret of the Golden tooth
The registration of marriage took place at 10.00 a.m. A yellow cloth was spread over a table kept in the front yard under the mango tree. There were chairs right round the table. I think they were from the school where Chitra was teaching. Altogther there were about 50 guests, which included friends of Rukman and teacher-mates of Chitra. I think that Rukman’s friends were the Padaviya district members of the J.V.P.
Some months back I received a message that birds were dying in a poultry farm at Siripura. I went and dissected the dead birds and immunized the rest. There were three adults and three girls in the poultry farm. No one talked much. The adults had grown up beards. From their Sinhala language accent I found out that they were from Kandy. I remembered Samarasinghe saying, “Sir! They are Che Guevara cadres ”.
It was the practice of the youngsters to not only leave their families after joining the J.V.P. but also to serve in other areas for carrying out their political activities. Other than that, those from villages went to towns and those from towns went to villages.
These were the thoughts of Mao-Tse-Tung that were practised in many countries. The ‘Year Zero’ was the extremist outlook that existed in Cambodia.
Once the registration of marriage was over, and after a small toast, the school Principal delivered a congratulatory speech. I reciprocated in my ‘broken’ Sinhala language.
When the guests dispersed, I took Chitra to Vavuniya along Horowopotana road. Though this route is closer to Vavuniya it runs through the thick jungle. Wild elephants used to cross this road. Kandy Road, which runs through Medawchchiya, is fairly wide. But there was an army camp on this road. This was more dangerous than meeting Elephants. If anyone attacked Police or Army personnel in Tamil areas, the Armed forces will get a ‘kick’ and they would start torturing Tamils under the name of checking.
We bought new clothes for Chitra’s parents and Rukman, and had soft drinks at ‘Thensurabi’ café. The proprietor of the café was a relative of mine. When I mentioned about my registration of marriage, he appeared as if listening to a condolence message. Since Chitra was by my side, I took leave from him in a haste, without making any comments for the sake of manners.
I was aware that flying insects were inconveniencing motorcycle riders in the evenings in farm areas. In spite of my rush riding it was about 7.00 p.m. when we reached Padaviya. Chitra’s parents waited for us to have dinner together with us. After having a bath we went to the dining table. The Petromax lamp gave out an immense amount of light. I saw two liquor bottles kept on the table. One was Mendis Special arrack and the other was brewed liquor, which appeared like ‘Kasippu’.
“It is an auspicious day today. Why are you drinking Kasippu?”, I teased her father.
“This is not Kassippu. This was specially brought from Thankottuwa.”
“Dispatched by a friend of my father.”, Chitra said.
“In that case, shall I also have a taste?”
“Thankottuwa is very strong. I do not know whether it will suit you.”
When he laughed I saw him wearing a golden tooth among his teeth.
“I could notice now only that you are having a golden tooth.”
“My father will laugh to the extent of showing his golden tooth only when he takes Thankotuwa drink“, Rukman and Gamini too joined in.
“When I was at your age, the 1958 racial riots took place. It was the days when we were wandering around without any jobs. There was a news item that Singhalese had been murdered in Jaffna. It was rumoured that Singhalese in Medawachchiya had also been murdered. They were coming from Vavuniya in busses and lorries to kill the Singhalese living in Padaviya. When we heard this news the youngsters and myself got together and traveled towards Vavuniya to confront them. On our way, the Army halted us and requested us to get back home. We refused. When Army attacked me with their rifle, a tooth broke. I still feel ashamed for having believed in the rumor.“
Chitra’s father told his side of the story. I never imagined that there would be such a story behind his golden tooth.
“Such rumors have been responsible for many killings and destruction”, I commented and started having dinner.

Continue—

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About noelnadesan

Commentator and analyst of current affairs.
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