What a strange world it is!
It was such heavy rain.
Lightning flashed. Thunder rolled. All these created a terror-stricken
atmosphere. Pedestrians sought shelter at the Maradana bus halt. They
were half wet.
The scene of the people taking shelter somehow attracted the
attention of a middle-aged Muslim who was standing with an umbrella. It
was evident that he was waiting for the bus bound for Borella.
All of a sudden, his eyes were focused on a scene. He was surprised.
“Oh! What a pathetic condition it is! How is this woman going to bring
up this infant? Alas! How is she going to spend the night in the heavy
rain?” he thought. He gazed at the baby crying in the biting cold. He
cursed the cruelty of the rain and being unable to tolerate the pitiful
sight of the mother and the baby, he stood wonderstruck. He realised
after a few minutes that the bus had already passed the bus halt.
The gentleman had been working as a ticket issuer at the Borella
cinema for the last five years. He was accustomed to seeing the sad
scenes in films but the scene he witnessed touched his heart.
The next bus arrived. He managed to get in to the bus after some
“Hello, Cader! Why are you very late today? It is already 6.35. The
show would have begun,” said his friend Ravi who was travelling from
Fort to Borella after having worked overtime.
But as far as Cader was concerned, his mind was haunted by the
thoughts of that woman and her baby. “Today it was because of the heavy
shower that I got delayed,” replied Cader engrossed in deep thought. The
bus passed Punchi Borella. “What a sin! How will she protect her child
from the severe cold? She had only a tattered cloth in her hand. She
looked half-naked without a proper dress. It is not even a month since
she delivered the baby. The cold wind makes her body shiver and cry.
Thus, being beset with thousands of thoughts, Cader was floating in
the wind of sympathy. At last, the bus reached Borella.
He entered the theatre where the manager began to pester him with
various questions regarding his delay. He was uttering something aloud
but it did not reach Cader’s ears. He went straight into the theatre and
occupied a vacant seat. The show was in progress. He rose from the seat.
He wondered “What’s this same scene here too!” On the main road, a
begging woman with a baby were in a pool of blood as a result of a car
accident. Cader became restless!
He came out of the theatre. He said to the manager “I am not well
today.” The manager looked at the pale face of Cader who said, “I beg of
you to allow me to get back home earlier”. The manager could not resist
Cader’s sudden change of mood and promptly replied “Okay! You are
permitted to leave for home and take full rest”.
Then Cader took lodging in a house on Forbes Lane but he could not
sleep at all during the night. He was awake with feelings for that
deserted woman and the agonising baby. How can this woman bring up this
child at that unprotected pavement without any basic facilities for
living? The question was repeated in his mind and it was like a blow of
an iron rod upon his head.
“I should buy a tin of a milk food, new bangles, new toys while going
home. You must buy all these toys and you should not forget!
“Who is going to buy a tin of milk food for this woman? Who will
stitch a skirt for her?” Alas! He held his head tightly and buried his
face in bed. Sleep embraced him somehow. The next morning he set out to
the restaurant for breakfast. He saw the same woman at the pavement,
begging with her baby in her hand.
He picked a five rupee coin from the pocket and placed it in her
hand. There was jingle of the coin. His heart was in full bloom. “She
will buy something for that baby,” he thought. He then became satisfied
with the expectation that she would buy something for the baby.
Having had breakfast, he hurried to take up duty for the matinee show
absent-mindedly that day. But, as it was a Poya day, there was no
matinee show. Cader left for home. His thoughts centred around the life
of that beggar family. The bus in which he travelled stopped at
Thihariya and he got down and approached his home. He took his baby,
caressed and kissed it lovingly.
“That’s right! It is almost two months since I delivered the baby!
You don’t want to give particulars for the birth certificate even after
two months. We will have to face problems due to our negligence!
“What can I do as a woman? How many days have passed since I told you
to bring a tin of milk food? The baby is crying continuously in the
night. This time you have to bring two tins when you go to Colombo!”
uttered Cader’s wife breathlessly. But Cader’s thoughts were diverted to
the case of the beggar family that he came across in Colombo. “Who is
there to give particulars for the birth certificate of that baby? Who
will prosecute against the parent after a lapse of three months?
That beggar woman eats the leftovers thrown by other people and
brings up the child by breastfeeding it. But here, after drinking pure
milk and eating fish regularly, there is quarrel over purchasing of
tinned milk food.” His mind wondered about what a world it is!
The salary that Cader draws in Colombo is not adequate to meet the
expenses of the meals in Colombo and the expenditure of meals at home.
He compared his life with that of the beggar woman. The following day he
waited for bus bound for Borella at Maradana at the bus halt as usual.
His eyes searched for something. It was the same person in the
distance. That woman with the same baby was talking to someone. “Is he
her husband?” he asked himself. It seemed that the deserted husband has
come back to her. “Let her get a new life.” It was Cader’s prayer. After
a while, he noticed them coming towards the bus halt. Cader overheard
the beggar woman and the middle-aged man sharing a secret. Cader was
restless. He stood behind and listened to the secret exchange of words.
“How is the new way of earning? How much have you got as daily
collection? I have employed another woman like you to do the same job”
“She has an enormous income she earns more than a thousand rupees a
day. Alright. How much have you now? Hand it over to me quickly. I’ll
pay you one third of your daily collection. Okay!” the man told the
The beggar woman took five hundred rupees out of her torn blouse and
gave it to the man. “I think you are keeping your commission with you.
If you pretend in a better way in the future, you can earn more than
what you earn now.
Try your best”. he advised her. The man disappeared with the
collection, taking the money hurriedly without showing his identity to
others in the crowd. The beggar woman resumed her usual lamentation and
complaints of abject poverty to all the strangers passing that pavement.
Some of them gave ten rupee notes.
Others gave twenty, fifty and maybe even more during the course of
the day. Cader got the full picture of the wonderful drama played by the
beggar woman and her sponsor. His mind underwent a change of mood and he
got into the bus to report to duty at the Cinema. The bus ran fast
carrying that gullible and the innocent man Cader whose mind is still
haunted by that incident of the beggar woman with a baby.
- M. Y. M. Meeadhu