Vannathikulam (Novelette)

Chapter One
Medawachchiya
Vannatikulam

The Yarldevi train crowd had eased at Vavuniya. It was not troublesome to get down at Medawachchiya railway station. I had luggage in both hands, but I was able to get down from the train on to the platform without any inconvenience to other passengers. Only five passengers got down at Medawachchiya. They had only hand luggage and appeared to be in a hurry. I was able to understand that they were Government employees.
I walked slowly while looking at them. Only one of them smiled at me. I did not know whether the others were worried about some domestic problem or they had some anxiety over the two holidays that lapsed in the weekend. Their faces showed signs of tenseness.
I decided to talk to the person who smiled at me and introduced myself. “I am Sooryan. I have come to Medawachchiya as a Veterinary Surgeon.”
“Nice to meet you. My name is Suppiah. I am working as a clerk in the Labour Office.”
“This is my first appointment.”
“Oh! I see.”
Both of us got into a bus.
“Mr. Suppiah! Can I find a place here to stay?”
“You can stay at our Government Quarters. I will meet you in the evening. You see the Veterinary Office over there,” said Mr. Suppiah walking towards his office.
Mr. Samarasinghe greeted me at the entrance to the office. He must have guessed that I am the newly appointed Veterinary Surgeon. Both us went inside the office. Two employees, Menike and Jeyawathy, also welcomed me.
I spoke to them in the ‘Sinhala’ that I knew and took my seat. While I was attending to some files and letters, Samarasinghe gave me a lunch parcel. I took it and thanked him. After having lunch I felt relaxed and comfortable. Several thoughts crossed my mind.
I was born in Jaffna Peninsula and I had my education too in Jaffna. I had no opportunity to familiarize with the Sinhalese people. While studying in college I heard about students being victimized by the introduction of language-biased standardization by the Government, I started to hate Singhalese. I showed my hatred by showing defiance at several places. However, when I went to the University I was able to understand certain aspects better. I understood that pressures of politics were different from Governmental rule.
Medawachchiya was an electorate where Singhalese farmers lived. When I got into the train I had in mind my father’s advice to work very carefully with the Singhalese.
In due course of time, I inquired about the employees in the office. Menike came to the office daily from Anuradhapura. She dressed according to the Kandyan custom. This was more attractive than the way the low-country Singhalese dressed.
“Menike! Are you married?” I asked her casually.
“Not yet,” she answered shyly. Jeyawathy was about 40 years of age and she had two children.
Samarasinghe was a jolly good fellow. He spoke very freely. I heard that he got married very recently.
I came out of the office at about 4.00 p.m. The sun was bright. I saw Mr.Suppiah coming towards my office. I took my bags and walked towards him. He took me to the government quarters.
The government quarters consisted of several rooms. I saw many slippers lying in the portico. Mr.Suppiah took me inside the quarters and showed me a room that was allocated to me.
After keeping the bags in the room, I came out., Three inmates came to me and introduced themselves.
“I am Rukman, working in the Ceylon Transport Board,” said one. He looked like a college student.
“I am Gamini and I am attached to the Irrigation Department,” said a short person.
“I am Gunadasa, working in the Public Works Department,” said a middle-aged person.
While we were talking, Rukman went towards the kitchen saying that it was his turn to cook. Though he looked like a college student, he showed determination in his voice. Serving me food Rukman said that I was their guest. His cooking was excellent. I thanked him for his superb meal.
A person came hurriedly and said, “ Sir! I am from Delft.” The moustache and holy ash on his forehead showed that he was a Tamil. His name was Ragavan. Later I came to know that Ragavan and Suppiah were the only Tamils who lived in the Quarters.

Continues—-

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About noelnadesan

Commentator and analyst of current affairs.
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