dragged a plastic chair to the shade of the Mango tree . Years ago
Gunapala was a temporary cook at an Army camp in Anuradhapura.
When the war ended, Generals got imprisoned . Brigadiers became diplomats
.Majors, Colonels got promoted and temporary cooks were dismissed. That’s
how Gunapala went from a temporary cook to being permanently job less.
Gunapala collected his cup of
plain tea from the Tamil boy who makes tea , and peered over the top edge of
the paper that Amare was reading . He was interested in the news in the
inside pages , with pictures..
Amare is a retired teacher , whose good deal of the day, like Gunapala’s, on most days is
whiled away in the garden of this tea kiosk cum grocery . “අමරේ අයියේ , ඊයේ බජෙට් එක වෙලාවේ කට්ටිය ගහගෙන නේද? “ ( Amare , did you see how the folks
fought at the budget reading yesterday) Gunapala broke the ice.
“මේ පත්තරේ තියෙන්නේ පින්තුර " (The pictures are in the paper) Amarasiri responded.
“ ටීවී එකෙත් පෙන්නුවා
. අපේ ඇමති තුමා ගැහුවා අරුන් හතර පස් දෙනෙකුට " (
They showed it on the TV. Our minister hit 4 ,5 people) Gune related.
“ඒ වගේ තැනකවත්
හැසිරෙන්න දන්නේ නෑ නේ " (
They don’t even know how to behave in a place like that )
“ඒ උනාට අර යු එන් පි
කාරයෝ , අපේ මහින්ද මහත්තය
ඉන්නවා කියලවත් බලන්නේ නැතිව හූ කියන්න ගත්තනෙ" (But the UNP fellows hooted at our Mahinda Mahaththaya) Gune
tried to justify .
“ මේ පත්තරේ තියෙන්නේ , මන්තිරිනියකගේ සාරියෙනුත් ගැලවෙන්නඇද්දා කියලා" (
In the paper it says that a lady’s sari was also pulled) , Amare reads over his
“ෂාහ් ඒක පෙන්නුවේ
නෑනේ " ( In vain they did not show that over the
TV) Gune’s tongue beats his mind to it.
“ අමරේ අය්යේ , මම හිතන්නේ අර ජෝන් බාස්ටනම් හොඳ පාරක් වැදුනා. පත්තරේ නැත්ද
කව්ද ගුටි කෑවේ කියලා ? " (
I think one blow landed on that guy John. Does the paper say about who else got
was eager to know
“ගුටි කෑවේ කව්ද
කියලා මේ මුල් පිටුවේම තියෙන්නේ " (Yes the the first page has
the details of who has got hit ) Amare’s finger stops at
the big heading in red 2012
Then grows a deafning silence . Gune could almost hear somebody hooting at them. Amare and the boy watch Gune’s right hand reach to
his gut , as if to make sure whether a blow has landed there ..
I aspire to be a good photographer and often think of the perfect shots that I would one day take . And most often when I encounter that great shot , I am caught without a camera at hand to capture it.
Today , where I live, the heavens have parted and their monsoon tears are hitting the earth hard. So early morning subdued light and dramatic skies did make a great setting for photos . Yet I was without a camera . So here are the three photographs I could not take.
#1 I am in the bus. Through the bus window I can see that the early morning showers have spread the magenta coloured Bauhinia petals all over the jogging trail lined with a row Bauhiniya trees. Against the dark shade of the trail , they look contrasting. There is a street sign left by some street repairman , a simple circle with an arrow pointing downwards, warning the pedestrians of a dodgy pot hole. Around it are the Magenta petals contrasting against dark pathway. Some cracks of the tar are also visible.
The shot would be , a close shot from the ground level , showing a longer depth of fields , with the sign positioned at the left side third of the frame..
#2 Bus is now on the flyover bridge , and the highway below is glistening black. The cars speeding away are drawing a trail of spray behind them. An image of jasmine blooms thrown on to the street for the perahara elephant to step , occupy my mind. The nostalagic hevisi sounds. May be it is because a friend mentioned just the other day , how she was awaken up early in the morning to the sounds of a perehara .
I’d take the shot from up here , perhaps at a 60 degree angle, in black and white . However I am undecided between whether to take it with a slower shutter speed to capture some of the motion or to take with a faster one to capture the details of the spray. But in any case the road , the vehicles and the lines of the trails would take up most of the composition.
#3 The Bus is now at the intersection . Inside is dark. I can only make out the silhouette of the heads of the fellow passengers ahead of me . Amber and the read glow of the traffic lights have lit up the bus windows . The droplets on widows are like little glass pebbles in bright sunlight. The patterns sketched by the rain drops’ paths too are clearly visible . Against that bright backdrop the silhouette of the heads look striking .
I’d take the shot in full colour and with higher contrast. Capturing about 2 , 3 rows of passengers on focus , from an angle, showing bright coloured rectangles that are the bus windows as the backdrop .
Have you heard story about the man who cried for the shoes until he saw a man with no feet ?
This week that was me who craved for the shoes.
I found my self between a rock and a hard place and wished I have reached the bottom , and was not still on the fall , reaching a new low as each moment go passing by.
Then I stumbled upon a blog written by a young Sri Lankan, who is working in the middle east . His wife and 3 year old daughter are left back home . He misses all the important milestones of the little girl. All because he has to work his way out of debt . The debt also is a result of trying to help out a friend . To digress a bit , there is an apt Sinhalese saying “Hitha Honda Gaani Hamadama badin” , which loosely translates to a reference of a lady who due to her goodhearted nature who is always pregnant. (But the essence of it lost in the translation. )
Writing seems down right honest. No frills , no self marketing, no ego trips . Written just to relieve a heavy heart. At the last full stop , you could almost hear the long sigh.
There were 74 comments . I teared up reading some. . They were that heartfelt. This is a close community all right, and some sort of comradeship is expected . But in the words (at least) I could feel more than that. A sense of some thing familiar, a nostalagic warmth . Through the lines, Sri lankaness shone through like a beacon . The thing that makes us feel another’s pain although we would have killed each other for a couple square feet of land . Which we try to suppress in our quest to become posh or professional. Peer deep within , and you find it and then realize what genteel beings we really are.
People have written about how they toil in foreign lands to ease the debt burden , to put food on the table , for a better future for their kids . I know a few such people , I am sure you do too . Try to remember they are not just stories or characters , they are people
About how grown men stuck over seas , take a photo of their child from their wallets and gaze. How lonely evenings ,make them sit for hours in park benches and cry.
People have written about their childhoods, without fathers to attend their school prize givings . The anger,the envy ,the shame and the loneliness they felt seeing other children with their fathers.. Then when they themselves had to do the same., they finally realized what their fathers went through. The full circle .
Reading done, my problems were still there and I was still struggling with them. Then I closed my eyes and pictured my daughter waiting for me at home .
Suddenly , as we say with the grammatical correctness of Colombo , my problem was no problem.