A friend in need is a friend indeed | Sunday Observer

A friend in need is a friend indeed


Siripala and his family lived by the Kelani river. Their home was on high ground. The rise in water level due to the rains and high tide did not affect the Sirpala’s home which was about five miles from the estuary.

Apart from the luxuriant vegetation of shrubs and other plants there was a beautiful cluster of bamboo. One single large cluster. Many shoots. There were two shoots that arched into the river. They were the first set of shoots with a part partially submerged in the water and mud. Most parts of the stems were touching the water.

The cluster had been there for ages and had been planted by Siripala’s grandfather.

Siripala’s two children aged seven and five and a half, used to often sit on a large mat with their toys and Scooby their pet little doggie, under the shadow of the resplendent umbrella of stems and the canopy of leaves.

With the building construction boom, there was a heavy demand for bamboo for scaffolding. The demand was increasing. The supply diminishing. Siripala had not sold a single shoot. He was not interested in selling.

One day Siripala’s friend Rukman, who was in the construction field rushed in to Siripala’s home. He needed bamboos urgently. Three long ones. At least two from Siripala.

Siripala was hesitant. Rukman took his hand and went towards the river, up to the cluster of bamboos.

Rukman pointed to the large stems bending in to the river. He told siripala that he would get his men to cut the stems at the lowest place. So that it would not disfigure the cluster.

Their bases would be covered by the water and mud. He needed the bamboo that day. An attractive payment.Rukman left in his car, leaving the truck with two workers. He wanted the bamboos by afternoon. An envelope was handed over to Siripala.

Siripala walked back home. They loved the bamboo tree. The whole family. They knew that their tree was a resting place for storks.

There was a large population of the giant fresh water prawns. He could not disappoint his good friend. Siripala and wife walked up to the tree. They were dwarfed by the sheer size. Magnificent tree. Some leaves were rustling in the wind. The ones in the water were dancing with the waters of the Kelani Ganga.

Yes, the couple did not want to disappoint their friend. “We are sorry”. They said looking up to the tree. “We are going to remove a small portion of your body. Not for the money but for friendship’s sake”.

Some drops of dew fell on the faces of Siripala and wife. “Thaththa, look, our tree is crying”. “Yes, Sumana, it is crying. No! We will not cut any of your shoots. We cannot hurt one friend to please another. You are our sweet bamboo tree, a part of the family”.

The couple caressed the tree. They sent the truck back to Rukman with the unopened envelope. Rukman was an angry man. Then, one Saturday the children were with their puppy Scooby, by the tree. Scooby was chasing a squirrel. Scooby fell into the river. Siripala’s little daughter ran behind their pet. She lost her balance and fell in to the river. Her small brother who was behind the sister grasped her frock. Both fell into the river. The girl had grasped the dog. Her little brother was clasping his sister’s leg. Struggling. A tragedy was to take place.

People on the other bank of the river were shouting. A very fast flow of the river water was flowing towards the sea. Siripala’s wife was uncontrollable. Many were in tears. Just then, a big branch of Siripala’s bamboo tree which was bending into the water blocked the girl from flowing down river. She clung on to it. Her brother was clinging on to the sisters frock. Scooby was on the branch. Next all three were on the branch of the bamboo tree - a proud life saving half submerged branch of the big bamboo tree.

People brought the children and their doggie up to Siripala's wife. All were shaken, but in smiles and a ‘bow wow’ from their little doggie.

That evening, the Siripala family visited the bamboo tree. They placed a bouquet of flowers at the foot. Embraced it. They cried “We were about to destroy the very saviour of our children. You saved them.

Also our family. Dear brother bamboo tree. You were made a loving instrument by the one in whom we believe. He showed his love for our family and also his love for you.” - Yes! Siripala lost a friend in Rukman but gained another.

A beautiful cascading bamboo tree. Rukman and the family visited the Siripalas that night, with two sheaves of betel leaves.One for Siripala.The other for the Bamboo tree.