A SHORT STORY -THE ETERNAL STRUGGLE | Sunday Observer

A SHORT STORY -THE ETERNAL STRUGGLE

Jayaratne entered the public park next to the factory through the small gate opened to employees of the factory. There is no proper place inside the factory for relaxation of employees during the lunch break. Factory union submitted their case several times to the management but no positive outcome has generated. When the majority of employees are migrant workers from poor countries, employees of the factory believe the management doesn’t listen to their grievances although the Labor government is in power in the country. Many times Jayaratne told fellow employees that democratic labor rights do not work in this country, where factory employees work like slaves. His view is employees in factories need real justice if the country has labor rights in place.

Many grown gum trees in the park provide shades to people free of charge in this user pay era. Trees in the park have been providing cool shades to employees of the Building Material Factory since its establishment. Jayaratne used to go to the park to enjoy his lunch, which contained sandwiches and a small apple or an orange. Voices of sea eagles and lorikeets are familiar sounds at this time and birds surround him. The birds know that Jayaratne never forgets to throw a few crumbs to the birds as he always feels that the pain of hunger, is not only for human beings but also for all living species.

Jayaratne hears the sounds of his colleagues passing jokes at each other, sitting under another tree under another tree, and enjoying their meal. Normally, he never forgets to say Hi to his workmates. Today he has no appetite nor the wish to meet anyone. His mind was on yesterday’s incident after the court decision.

“Daddy I can’t go with mummy. I want you,” his young daughter, Lisa, who was holding her mom’s hand, started crying no sooner she noticed dad.

She again shouted “ Ayya, Ayya I love you. I want to go with you,” when she saw her brother walking with the father.

Jayaratne approached Lisa to hug her but his former wife was holding tight her daughter’s hand and the hand of her new husband and attempted to stop the child’s movement.

Divorce from his wife and a loving daughter was the most painful incident he encountered in Australia, in his new homeland. As a young engineer, Jayaratne with his family migrated to Australia with tremendous hopes for the future. Before migrating to Australia he had heard many prosperous stories from his friends in Australia when they visited Sri Lanka for holidays. Although such stories could not be verified, he believed them as true stories. When he received a letter from the Australian High Commission Office in Sri Lanka, he was anxious to open it as it may have been another rejection. The first application to migrate was rejected without sufficient grounds and he made another application. The second time he was hopeful as he had read many news items that Australia was looking for skilled migrants like Jayaratne, who achieved a civil engineering degree from a recognized university. He opened the letter, there was a message as he expected. He had a feeling that he would achieve everything in life when he migrates to Australia. He looked outside to see his wife, Jenna who he thought would enjoy the news but he had seen dark clouds in the sky around his house.

“Jenna, Jenna where are you?” he called.

“Jenna, Jenna, where are you. This time we are successful” Jayaratne called loudly.

Jenna woke up suddenly. While cooking lunch she felt as sleepy as she was watching a movie the previous night. She was surprised as to why Jayaratne was so noisy. Usually, his behavior was quiet. He never disturbed her when she was sleeping.

“Jaye, why are you shouting,” Jenna asked

“Jenna, see this letter. This time we are successful. We got the visa” Jayaratne showed the letter to Jenna. She got the letter from Jayaratne’s hand but she had difficulty in reading and understanding the letter, which was printed in English. Jayaratne read the letter and interpreted the contents. Jenna was quite happy.

When her parents proposed Jayaratne, a civil engineer in the Mahavelli project, she did not like because Jayaratne had a dark complexion, and was about ten years older than her. She was a year 12 student and enjoyed companionship with her school friends. When she told her friends in the school about parents’ proposal, all were laughing and “so you are going to give the boot to Ravi “her best friend Helen shouted. Ravi was a boy in year 12, but he was in the science group.

“I don’t know what to do but don’t tell this news to Ravi” Jenna requested. from her friends who promised not to mention the story again in the classroom. While she was going home after school, Helen joined her and attempted to give some advice. Helen was realistic, and said, “although Jayaratne is older than you, he is an engineer receiving a good pay packet. He has a good reputation and recognition in the community” Jenna was thinking about Helen’s advice and later gave her consent to marry Jayaratne. It made her parents very happy.

Jayaratne was a busy man because the government was pushing the Mahaweli Authority to complete the project before the next election. He noticed Jenna several times going to school passing his temporary work office set up close to the school. He remembered smiling at her several times. A laborer working with Jayaratne was known to Jenna’s father and made the proposal to Jenna’s parents.

Jayaratne’s mind is in an uncontrollable position. Although he wanted to forget the past, he couldn’t. His mind went to the day he first talked to Jenna at her home in Polonnaruwa. She was shy and showed much respect to him. On the wedding day, many of his relatives and friends said he had found a good wife. When they were in Sri Lanka, no serious problems had arisen in their life. They respected each other and loved their children.

When Jayaratne arrived in Australia with his family, there was an economic recession and it was hard to find a job. He made many applications, unfortunately, he couldn’t get any position. The only help was the government dole. He was worried about the Australian environment. Sometimes, he felt that he couldn’t get a job because he was an Asian. Employers in Australia gave preference to the fair skinned, then to skills and knowledge. Many of his friends who visited Sri Lanka had lied to him that they held big positions. Jayaratne felt that Australia was not the promised land that his family was dreaming of in Sri Lanka. He talked to Jenna many times about the situation. His kids were enjoying and didn’t understand how he suffered. Ultimately there was no alternative; he had to join this factory.

Jayaratne heard the factory bell ringing. Lunchtime was over. He went back to the factory, working was difficult, he was depressed. He told his workmates his difficulty. Theu advised him to take leave and rest at home.

Jayaratne decided the same thing and approached factory supervisor and requested two days leave. Factory supervisor had a good opinion of Jayaratne because he was not a cunning man. He was an honest and devoted worker. Supervisor authorized leave, he knew about Jayaratne’s case and was sorry for a family to break up. Jayaratne came out of the factory and drove home, as his son was alone in the house.

He was thinking about his son’s feeling about previous day experience at the courthouse. Why was Jenna so rude to me and her son? Milton was the most favorite baby of Jenna. Milton was so helpful to Jenna and she always kept him on her lap and told stories. Separation from mum was a serious shock to Milton and he was continuously crying for more than a month and never attended school.

Jayaratne worried about his education and after so much of struggles, Milton settled down and adapted to a new environment but still he was suffering from shock. Jayaratne parked the car and entering the house noticed that Milton was mentally suffering and crying for the loss of his mother and sister.

Jayaratne approached the son with sorrow and holding him started crying. Both were unable to talk to each other.

“Son, this is our fate. I cannot imagine why mum changed. We have to adapt to the environment. The court has given judgment that Mummy should allow Nangi to come here every other Friday. This Friday we go and bring Nangi.” Jayaratne expressed in a soft voice.

He noticed Milton’s face and his innocent look confirming the words of the father.

“Son, nobody knows our pain. The Judge may have thought we were like the Australians. They marry and divorce again and again. Mummy may have misunderstood this society. But son, don’t hate your mum, she is your mum. Although she left us we love her”

Jayaratne couldn’t sleep the whole night. He was thinking about what went wrong. How could we face friends and relatives when we visit Sri Lanka, he thought. Jayaratne thought his friends and relatives would laugh at them and say, he went for green pastures but lost everything including his wife and children. Can Jenna go to Sri Lanka with her new husband, who is older than Jayaratne with three kids from a previous marriage? Will her parents and relatives accept and respect him That is not Jayaratne’s problem. Jenna has to face her own future.

It was 5.45 am, Jayaratne went to the kitchen to have a cup of tea. His son was quietly sleeping. Although he has to wake up to go school Jayaratne was reluctant to disturb him. He was in a serious sorrow and should be given time to settle down. Jayaratne had a cup of tea and sat on the settee and started thinking. There is no one to share his pain and he was another Sri Lankan without support in a strange country.

He started to talk to himself. “I have no worry about working hard or loss of my status. I have had good experience in my life since birth. My parents struggled to bring me to a good status. Life is a challenge. I am ready to accept the challenge. There are no alternatives unless I adapt this system.

While he was thinking he felt on sleep and wake up after 10 am when son called him to answer a phone call.

“Dad, when are you coming to take me home. I love you. I can play with Ayya. I am not going back to mum. I want to stay with you and Ayya.”

Jayaratne heard a familiar voice. Through the dark cloud of sorrow, Jayaratne smiled and answered” my daughter we love you. On Friday I will come to bring you here.” 

Comments