The Indelible | Sunday Observer

The Indelible

30 August, 2020

Making a sincere attempt to bring an unimagined and unexplored treasure trove of modern Sinhala literature to the English reading community, Montage is bringing Mahinda Prasad Masimbula’s award winning novel Senkottan translated by

Malinda Seneviratne, veteran journalist, writer and poet. Senkottan (The Indelible), a remarkable creation of literature by Mahinda Prasad Masimbula was his debut effort in his literary career for which he won the State Literary Award in 2013 and short-listed in Swarna Pusthaka Literary Awards and many other Literary Award Festivals in the same year. The book has been published by Santhawa Publishers and Senkottan has blazed the trail in the self-publishing industry as one of the best-selling books in Sinhala literature.


Although there had been two messages from the Niyamgama Walawwa to pick up soiled clothes Veerappuli Henaya was not inclined to go there. He hadn’t gone to Godakawela even once after the incident concerning Podina. Malma Ridee, knowing very well that he was mired in an immense sense of disappointment which he took care not to reveal to the world, undertook this journey along with Baba Henaya without troubling Veerappuli Henaya in any way.

Veerappuli Henaya, as always, took charge of soaking the clothes in the stream and laying them out in the vellaava, but at all other times his attention was directed towards the bo sapling which was growing well, one leaf at a time.

Malma Ridee often watched him from the house. She remembered how she had just rolled on the ground and wept inconsolably the moment she had been informed of Podina’s death and how that sorrow gradually faded simply by washing it in tears. A faint pain would pierce her heart and envelop her entire being whenever she thought of Podina but she knew she had the strength to bear it. She knew, however, that Veerappuli Henaya lacked this strength.

He was like a little child. She still remembered how one evening, crouching by the hearth, he had murmured ‘my dearest mother…’ and wept alone. It was more than twenty five years since his mother, her mother-in-law, Ugngnang Ridee had died, but it was as though his sorrow had received a fresh lease of life.

His visits to Guna Ralahamy had become less and less frequent. Baba Henaya now went all by himself to Guna Ralahamy’s house twice a week for his lessons. He could now write words such as amma, thaaththaa and aatha in beautiful round letters, all from memory. He would spend the evening using a stick to write on the sand outside the house. Veerappuli Henaya, therefore, had stopped sweeping with the ekel broom. He would walk all over the compound, admiring the work of the boy. There were lots of letters written with pieces of charcoal on the walls of the house which had been whitened with[SH1] makulu.

As the days passed Malma Ridee gradually stopped accepting invitations to kotahalu ceremonies outsides the village. If it was too important to reject she would send Nambu Henaya to Bungiriya with a message for Rambari. Rambari would give him five cents for his efforts. This money he saved to buy books for Baba Henaya the next time Bavatha came by.

One day while Malma Ridee was washing clothes in the peththare Garu Ridee came to see her. At this time Veerappuli Henaya was by the stream, rinsing clothes and laying them out on a rock to dry. Garu Ridee was not one to look her in the eye and talk. However, Malma Ridee suspected that she had come to talk of something that was profitable to herself. Garu Ridee began to speak.

‘I have been thinking of coming to see you Nandamme for quite some time. I even told my brother. Didn’t Nambuwa tell you anything?’

‘Hmm…no. Nambuwa told me nothing of the sort. What is it Garuvo…what’s it that you need?’

Garu Ridee thought for a while how she could articulate the matter. Malma Ridee looked at her. Garu Ridee’s jacket had slipped off her shoulder. The one thing striking about her face was her teeth, which stuck out of her mouth. It was as though a skeleton had been covered with a cloth. Malma Ridee felt sorry for her. Garu Ridee stuttered and stammered.

‘My Nandamme…we are closely related. We are of the same clan. You know well Nandamme that our mother could tirelessly wash clothes. You are a woman from Bungiriya. I am not saying there’s anything wrong in that. What I mean is that you rarely go out of the village for kotahalu ceremonies. So maybe you could pass on invitations for such things to me instead of sending word to people in Bungiriya. I am struggling to make ends meet. And anyway, I have no one to take care of me. The only one I had took up residence in your home, as you know.’

‘That’s not a problem Garu Ridiyo…but you are not a woman who does anything properly, you know. That’s not good in these matters. If a word is given you have to go, even if you break your neck doing so. All you’ve done is to take a story from here and relate it somewhere else, take something from there and relate it here. You’ve never done anything for anyone to have any confidence in you.’

Garu Ridee’s face well when she heard this, but Malma Ridee hadn’t rejected outright her proposal. Anyway, it was just a small part of all the things she had wanted to say.

“I am not saying no to you. If you undertake such things, you have to remember the day, the time and the place. You have to attend to things in such a way that there would be no complaint. Also, you need some white cloth. If you are ready to do things properly I can give you some cloth. When you visit such a house you should have no ears for other people’s affairs. You do what has to be done in the morning.

You take what’s given. You come back. That’s all. You understand, don’t you Garuvo?’

Garu Ridee was overjoyed. ‘Yes, yes I understand,’ she said excitedly and taking a pile of clothes lying on a nearby rock, soaked and started to wash them. Although he had heard this exchange Veerappuli Henaya did not utter a single word. He took the wad of washing soda and rubbed it on the stains on clothes from which the water had been squeezed out.

Garu Ridee spoke while washing the clothes.

‘Nandamme, I am not too interested in washing clothes. I don’t have the strength. However, if I could bathe a single kotahalu once a week, it would suffice. If this was possible I won’t have to eat kos-polos every day. I could actually eat some rice.

Malma Ridee felt sorry for her. She thought to herself that this is a highly meritorious act and felt happy.

There’s a message from Bibilegama. I will pass it on to you. When they come with betel I will send them along to your place. You accept the invitation.’

Garu Ridee laid aside the cloth that was in her hand, went on her knees and worshipped Malma Ridee.

‘Much merit should go to you Nandamme. It’s no small matter. You’ve come to the aid of a helpless woman. I will do the bathing perfectly. I can now eat my fill of rice. This merit should go to the two of you, our fellow, his boy, Podina who has now gone beyond reach, your Heen Ridee and also the baby in her womb….May they all be blessed with merit. There! I have wished it so!’

Malma Ridee was curious.

‘The baby in the womb…?’ she asked.

Garu Ridee came nearer and spoke to Malma Ridee as though sharing a secret.

‘Didn’t you know? The Heen girl has been vomiting. Now listen Nandamme. The day before yesterday when I walked near Babanis’ place in search of indalolu mushrooms, she was trying to eat the kernel of goraka fruit fallen on the ground. I said “wait,” and climbed a little way up the tree, plucked six-seven fruit and gave her. She ate them all, would you believe it?

When she heard this Malma Ridee’s eyes filled with tears.

‘I will prepare some polos and go see the little girl.’