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Sunday, 6 September 2009

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Government Gazette

Itipahan (Burly Lamp) Chapter -4

(Translated by Ranga Chandrarathne and edited by Indeewara Thilakarathne)

"I am a lamp burning on both ends
Known well that I cannot pass the night
Yet See my friends Foes How
powerful light Burnt
To
dispel the darkness"

Continued from last week

It took two years for Duleena to get Kandemahattaya to make arrangements to admit Somawathie to the school Sirinatha Punchi Mahattaya attended. It happened after a lot of pleading with Kandemahattaya. Duleena went to the school accompanied by the girl and Kandemahattaya, carrying the horoscope and the birth certificate of the girl.

"Since you will be accompanied by Kandemahattaya on this journey, you should do so with due respect to him," Nanawathi Hamine said the previous day. Duleena could not understand as to what she meant by her uttering.

"That means you should not wear an Osari or a lot of jewelleries. Just wrap yourself in a plain cloth and a blouse. Lamathani would be angry if you go with Kandemahattaya wearing an Osari", said Nanawathi Hamine who got Sriyadari to fill up the school admission form which Kandemahattaya had brought.

"Oh, have you given Heen Appu's surname to the girl? You are a sort of a woman!", said Nanawathi Hamine with widened eyes when Duleena told the girl's name. Heen Appu's name is Rathu Vithanalage Heen Appu. The girl's name is Rathu Vithanalage Somawathi. Duleena wondered whose name should be registered as the girl's father without giving the name of the man who lived in the house. Nanawathi Hamine always finds faults with Duleena. By whichever means they conceive their children, everyone in the village, at the end, register the child in the name of the man in the house.

Despite Nanawathi Hamine's advice for Duleena to wear a plain cloth and a blouse, she wore an Osari for the occasion. There were a couple of Osaris which Duleena had brought from Jaffna. She could not let them go waste without wearing them even on an occasion of this nature. But she thought that should not have worn the Osari when Kandemahattaya looked at her twice in the bus on the way to the school. The girl wore an elegant gown which was tailor-made for her and brought from England by the Government Agent of Jaffna. The girl liked to wear elegant outfits.

The Headmaster welcomed Kandemahattaya with much respect. Though he agreed to admit the child, he asked Duleena a couple of questions as he was reading the admission form. Thereafter, he took the birth certificate, returning the horoscope to Duleena. He looked at the form and the birth certificate which was in English.

"What is the name of the child?" asked the Headmaster after examining the two documents, in a suspicious manner.

"Somawathi-Ratuvithanalage Somawathi," said the daughter before the mother.

She was eager to get herself admitted to the school. Then she could go to school with Sirinatha.

"But the name in the birth certificate is different," said the Headmaster examining it several times. Duleena looked at the daughter with widened eyes.

"Really, could it be a case of the birth certificate being mixed up with someone else's, "said the Headmaster returning the document to Kandemahattaya. But there wasn't any mix-up. Father's name is Rathu Vithanage Heenappu. Mother's name is Liyanage Duleena. The child's name is Daisy Suzan.

"Sir, really, what does it tell?", asked Duleena who was confused. She was afraid that this would prevent the child's admission process.

"Who named the girl in this birth certificate?" asked the Headmaster.

"Government Agent asked me for a name to be registered. I said Somawathi". Then he would have added something else," said Duleena and wiped her face with the boarder of her Osari.

"According to this, the girl's name is an English name. So you have to come to this school to know your daughter's name. According to the birth certificate, the girl's name is Daisy Suzan," said the Headmaster who laughed loudly.

The girl was amazed. For the first time, she knew that her name was not Somawathi. She learnt her new name was Daisy Suzan.

"Then, Mr. Bandaragama, let us use the name in the birth certificate", said the Headmaster.

"Kandemahattaya, you may receive merit for helping me. The child always insisted that she must attend this school." If not for kandegedara Mahattaya, the girl would have to go to the village school for this year as well. The girl is now used to quarrel with Duleena. If the girl who is good in her studies, could attend a good school, then, she could also have a future, thought Duleena.

"Duleena, where shall I receive my merit?" asked Kandemahattaya. Duleena noticed that he looked at her breast covered in Osari. The girl who disentangled from Duleena, walked ahead of them. Duleena thought that her heart must be filled with happiness thinking of the prospects of attending a new school.

A scene from the teledrama Itipahan

"I will visit you at your place, "said Kandemahattaya without hesitation.

Duleena felt a quiver. Duleena thought if she knew that Kandemahattaya was such a bad man, the school admission could have been done quickly. She thought of how she abandoned Heenappu and returned to the village with a child. Now she was considered by the villagers as a woman who could be taken advantage of.

"Why should you come to my place? There is not even a chair to sit. I will inform Nanawathi Hamine that you did the needful", said Duleena as if she did not understand his intention. Kandemahattaya did not utter a word but responded by laughing loudly.

Somawathi rushed to Amarawardene Ralahamy's house without waiting for Duleena. She had a lot to share with Sirinatha as well as Sriyadari Akka.

She entered the house panting from the backyard. She was happy that she could now attend her new school with Sirinatha.

"Oh, why are you like a wild horse?", shouted Nanawathi Hamine, seeing Somawathi who was panting after running into the house. She did not reply.

Somawathi, who saw Sriyadari when she looked out of the window, rushed to her and hung on her cloth.

"Sriyadari Akke! I was admitted to the school. "Somawathi yelled happily.

From nowhere Sirinatha came into the house on hearing the echo of her shriek. Sriyadari tried to share the girl's happiness, taking her by hand, like an elder sister looking at a younger sister. Somawathi looked at Sirinatha whilst hanging on to Sriyadari.

"Sirinatha, do you know the news? ", asked Somawathi leaning against Sriyadari.

"What's it? ", asked Sirinatha showing no interest, but he was impatient to know what Somawathi had to say.

"According to my birth certificate, I'm not Somawathi." She said with extreme happiness. Sirinatha looked at her as if he did not believe her and glanced at the girl with a smile.

"My name is Daisy Suzan. That's the name in the birth certificate. In the new school, they will call me Daisy Suzan. Ask mother, if it is a lie ... ", said Somawathi presenting evidence. Sirinatha let out a loud laugh which was suppressed till then, with a mouth full of saliva. Sriyadari also laughed out.

"But we could not pronounce that name, "said Sirinatha wiping the saliva.

Sriyadari thought that the loud conversation between Nanawathi Hamine and Duleena was about the new name.

"Who gave you that name?" whispered Sriyadari. Sirinatha pulled the ribbon in the gown which was tied around Somawathi's waist. Somawathi answered without letting the ribbon fall.

"I do not know who did it. But that's how it is in the birth certificate, "she said happily. Sriyadari patted on her while holding her by the hand.

"Akka, are you not fond of Somawathi?", asked Sirinatha. Sriyadari kissed Sirinatha.

"Then what's the surname? Is it Heenappu's surname?" asked Nanawathi Hamine as she spit into the padikkama.

"The surname is the same..." said Duleena without any inhibition. Duleena thought with anger why Nanawathi Hamine was concerned about giving Heen Appu's surname to the girl by the woman who lived and slept with him under the same roof.

"Surname is from here and the name is from abroad. Really, who was the girl's father? You should know that well!" asked Nanawathi Hamine spiting a jet of saliva into the paddikama.

"Nanawathi Hamine, what is the use of knowing it? But he was a man of good stock. He wanted to have the child. How can I sacrifice my only child? I could not do that. I know that girl has lost a princely life. But I could not give her .." said Duleena wiping her tears using her Osari. Only then Nanawathi Hamine beheld Duleena's Osari. But she had wrapped the border of the Osari around her waist.

"Then, you had gone with Kandegedara Mahattaya in Osari wearing a necklace. I told you to wear plain cloth and a blouse. I detest your styles," said Nanawathi Hamine expressing her anger. She thought that Duleena wrapped the Osari around her hip to deceive her.

"I have four or five of these. Can I wear an Osari for tapping rubber? I should dress well when I go to school. If not, I thought, the child would not be admitted to the school," said Duleena, putting a pot of water on the hearth to pour a cup of Ranawara.

"Then, they have admitted the girl to school by looking at your cloth. Oh the devil, how dare you walk with the husband of that Lamathani wearing an Osari? "Shouted Nanawathi Hamine expressing her anger and looked at Somawathi who came from the backyard. She wore a gown resembling that worn by the daughter of Queen Elizabeth with a lot of style. "Nodaking", she murmured. She thought that this nobody's girl wore elegant dresses which were much better than those worn by Sriyadari and Sirinatha.

"Hamine, did mother tell you my name?", Soma asked Nanawathi Hamine happily. Nanawathi got up from where she was and left silently. Somawathi rushed to her mother who lit the hearth.

Duleena realised that it would not be enough for her to tap rubber to provide her with her schooling items such stationery.

She thought that it was her duty to buy them. If there is a shortcoming the girl would scream. Duleena thought that the girl knew that she could control her by putting up fronts. The girl would attend the school with Sirinatha Punchchi Mahattaya.

The girl got up from her mat with a cup of tea and a rotti prepared early in the morning. After having tea, it was she who washed the girl's face. Even though she is over twelve, she considered her as a little one. "Do not fondle her too much!" Nanawathi Hamine always said.

But Duleena thought who else should she fondle other than her little girl? Still the girl did not know how to put on her gown. Duleena knew that she liked that fondling subconsciously. The girl liked the small powder tin depicting the queen's picture with a branch of flower rather than powder with a big jumbu flower on the cover. The girl said Sriyadari Nona also used the same powder. She had to work endlessly to provide for the girl at this tender age; ten cents per day for bus fare, three cents to go and another three cents to come.

Nanawathi Hamine said the bus fare would be increased to five cents. If the bus fare is increased, then ten cents for the bus and two or three cents for the girl to buy a corn of gram would have to be given. Duleena though somehow she would do something not to displease the girl. Thanks to Amerawardena Ralahamy's house, she could feed the child. She could have dinner even with a half of jak and pol sambol.

No one would object to her serving a plate of rice and curry with dried fish or with a Mallun for the girl for lunch from Amerawardena Ralahamy's house. The girl, Sirinatha Punchchi Mahattaya and Sriyadari had lunch together. Sriyadari stayed at home and engaged in sewing following the Advanced Level examination. In the morning, she attended a class in the town.

Nanawathi Hamine said Sriyadari Nona would like to become an office worker. Duleena thought it was better if it could happen that way. So the girl could also follow a similar path.

Duleena though that darkness which crept into the house making subtle noises, had now started to groan. That noise brought fear and a nosatic feeling. Kumatheris Aiyya, who did not visit her for two or three days said he would visit today when he met her at Polgaha Pillawa. Kumatheris Aiyya always said that she tried to make the girl a doll. But he did not care for the girl.

Duleena though that she could not ask Kumatheris Aiyya not to come. She thought it would be painful to lead a life without a male companion. At least, there was someone who would come from time to time and care for her.

Duleena recalled, one day, how Kandegedara Mahattaya came into the hut in the night as if to settle a loan of admitting the girl to the school.

The girl knew that Kumatheris Aiyya visited her and thanked because of her relationship. The girl had never questioned about his visits. But, Duleena was afraid of the visits by Kandegedara Mahattaya.

Duleena looked at his oval-shaped face and round eyes for a moment. Luckily, the girl was asleep. Duleena weaved the mat continuously. Kandegedara Mahattaya sat on the camp bed where Kumatheris Aiyya would sit and watch her weaving. She saw it from time to time with the corner of her electrifying eyes.

"Oh, why were you born in this cottage," asked Kandegedara Mahattaya as if with a compassion after a long pause. Duleena placed her finger on the place where she stopped weaving thinking she would mess up with the pattern and smiled with Kandegedara Mahattaya.

"Why should you worry about them? It is our lot, "said Duleena commencing her weaving. Kandegedara Mahattaya responded by laughing loudly similar to the manner he laughed that day at the school. Duleena was afraid that the girl would wake up.

"Whatever is one's plight, men are crazy about your fine figure. You are like a virgin. Keep that and come over here, I will pay the price for the mat, "Kandegedara Mahattaya who got up from the camp bed lifted up Duleena by putting his hands through her armpit. Duleena was scared thinking that Kumatheris Aiyya would arrive.

At the same time, she was desperate and wanted to get away from Kandegedara Mahattaya's grip. The people of the village do not allow her to lead a pure life for the sake of the girl. She realised instantly that Kandegedara Mahattaya had already tightened his grip on her. Duleena smelled a fragrance from Kandegedara Mahattaya which is different to the strong stench coming from Kumatheris Aiyya.

"Mahattya, leave me alone; please go. You have a wife like a beam of gold. If the child wakes up, she would scream", Duleena murmured.

"I have not seen a beam of gold like you in this area. You have a good smell. Nobody has that smell, "said Kandegedara Mahattaya tightening the grip on her.

"I will shout enough to be heard by entire village. Thunder should strike on the men of the village who would not allow a lonely woman to live in peace... ", Duleena murmured.

"Do not put up a false pretence. You are quite used to it, "said Kandegedara Mahattaya sinffing Duleena's chest.

Footnotes

Osari- A special way of wearing a saree

following the Kandyan tradition.

Lamathani- Wife or the lady of Kandemahattaya

Padikkama -Spittoon .

Ranawara- a beverage made out of Ranawara leaves

Nodaking- A Sinhalese expression of disgust

Rotti- toasted dough of flour

Jumbu flower- flower of a jambu tree

Coconut Sambol- a simple Sri Lankan dish prepared by mixing scraped coconut with chilli, salt and lime.

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