Tuesday, August 9, 2011


After the teacher training, we were assigned to the compulsory difficult area service. Some dudes who had connections in high places said very confidently, that they were not going to do any difficult service and they were going to get it changed.  We poor dudes who actually had no such connections, accepted the inevitable death warrant.  And, we also wanted to finish off this obligation to the government at the very beginning, so that we would not be transferred there later in the career.

 And as far as I know, the ones who got their appointments changed to the cozy schools in western province and central province, actually never had to go to complete their compulsory difficult service as we feared at the beginning . And we, the poor dudes who went there only for the prescribed 3 years, were given this outrageous,  snobbish, bureaucratic  reply, when we asked for transfers at the completion of it:

“Sorry, we can’t release you because no one else is willing to come here to replace you.”
So, it was matter of just quitting the job, or murdering the bureaucratic assholes or just waiting it out. We weighed our options and chose to wait. Finally, when we returned, we had served a total of 6 years in the hell hole instead of the prescribed 3 years. And, how we got those transfers is another story, I’d write in detail, in later posts.

I got small village called Mavanagama, in Dehiaththakandiya, in the east and my newly married pregnant wife got Hambanthota in the south, thanks to the wiz brains of Isurupaya, also nick named Apaya (Hell), the Building Complex that housed The Ministry Of Education. As I said, it was a hellhole to begin with. 

Now we don’t even teach in Sri Lanka. When we go home for the vacations to Sri Lanka, our whole family actually visited that place and also spent a night there in that once god forsaken place. Do you believe dudes, I was homesick and nostalgic for that place! And what a transformation!! It was sooo lush, cool, green place, I had difficulty in recognizing old landmarks as I slowly drove along. Again, It’s another story I’d write in detail, in later posts.

So, we went to the hellhole. Paved road ended abruptly after Girandhurukotte. It looked like Australian outback. Miles and miles of dusty, rutted, dirt roads carved out through the jungle with motor graders. The rickety minivans which provided the transport were filled with dusty air while the inside got hot like an oven in the unmerciful dry zone sun. Breathing was a struggle. You taste dust in your mouth and throat and lungs get clogged. And when you finally get off at your destination, you are totally covered in a thick layer of reddish brown dust. Actually I got this respiratory problem I suffer from even now, thanks to those hell rides.
Well, once you are there, to get the groceries was a huge problem.  There were some small shops but everything was overpriced. Bread was like plywood. Vegetables a luxury, a sun dried fake coconut cost as much as it does today.

We used to go to a weekend fair (market) in Lihiniyagama, a neighboring town. We didn’t even own a bicycle back then because we were just starting our married lives. Fair (market) was a several kilometers away. A truck with two long wooden homemade benches running the length of the back of the truck, serves as the bus. It was nick named kos béné, because it resembles a hole in a jak tree. If you were lucky enough to park your butt on this uncomfortable bench, it saved you being crushed in the middle of the tangle of human bodies and limbs in the which you got jostled this way and that way while the truck traversed the rutted Mahaveli System C landscape. And the passengers were sprinkled lavishly with gritty reddish dirt raised by Mahawali Authority’s standard vehicle - air conditions Misubishi Pajero 4WDs - which constantly ran on these dirt roads.  It was a nightmare.

Most days, kos béné didn’t arrive. One such day I was staggering towards home along with two heavy grocery bags full of stuff I had bought at the fair. I was sweating profusely in the sweltering heat. I had a habit of breaking the whole mammoth task of getting home, into smaller more achievable portions. I didn’t think about the whole journey which broke my heart. I selected a distance of about 100 meters and tried to make that at a time. Then had a break to regain the drained strength, sometimes rewarding myself with a well deserved cigarette. While I waited so many Mitsubishi Pajero 4WDs passed me raising clouds of dust making my predicament worse. 


I was disgusted of this goddamned place, actually I hated the whole dry zone with its vegetation, its climate and everything about it. I loathed the vehicles and their occupants that passed me. I cursed the sun that grilled me alive. Strangely I was feeling cold in the sun, maybe some inner safety mechanism kicked in. Most of all, I hated the assholes sitting on their fat bums in the air-conditioned comfort in the offices of Isurupaya, and controlled our lives. The self pity that washed over me was so overpowering, I gritted my teeth to stop myself from screaming obscenities that came into my mind. You might think what happened next is hallucination or sun stroke.
I had shifted one bag on to my shoulder now, which definitely wasn’t my style. There was about a kilometer of more to get home to our teachers’ quarters when I heard this cacophony of laughter that could only belong to Woody Woodpecker or some other cartoon character...

Hihihi Heee Heeeww! Hihihi Heee Heeeww!

I looked over my shoulder. Nothing. Only the parched empty dirt road. 
Then I heard it again. And this time I saw it.

The red ripe tomatoes which I had selected very carefully at the fair, over the protests of the vender, had grown faces on them! Mocking faces!! They were laughing at me, sitting on my shoulder, teasing me through the see-thru plastic bag. 

“These are the best years of your life, hey dude…” sang one tomato to the tune of Bryan Adams’s hit ‘Summer of 69’ (He was abusing one of my favorite songs). The wailing twang and clang of the electric guitars and the thud of drums so close to my ear…
“You’re wasting your youth in this god forsaken desert..hee hee!” A ripe tomato teased.
“We’re now working in Colombo schools, dude. Actually I’m teaching in your old school Nalanda College!’ said a plump tomato.
I couldn’t take it anymore.
“Shut the fuck up you Morons! You are not real!!!” I screamed back overwhelmed with self pity and rage.
“We won’t give you a transfer back home till you rot in this hellhole in your own juice!!”, A  tomato with an bureaucratic Isurupaya face threatened.
“We regret to inform you that we can’t release you without a substitute…!” A Zonal Education Department tomato made this announcement over the PA system that could only belong to the of Maradana Railway Station, but in a more reasonable tone.
You’ll be an old dude when you leave here, that is if you ever leave…!!!” A sadistic tomato I couldn’t make out sneered.
At this point I realized that the thudding drum beat and wailing guitars changed into the rock tune of ‘Hotel California’.

'Relax,' said the night man,
We are programmed to receive.
You can checkout any time you like,
but you can never leave.. (guitars wailing)
Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place
Such a lovely place ( background sound )
Such a lovely face
They livin' it up at the Hotel California
What a nice surprise
what a nice surprise ( background sound)
bring your alibis..!”


I felt my hand clench into a fist. I watched in horror it slamming against the tomatoes again and again beating them up into an unrecognizable pulp. My eyes were streaming. Mocking laughter faded. Dead silence reigned.
I took the short cut through the thicket in the Mahaweli land reserve and crept through the gap in the barbed wire perimeter fence into the school yard. Deepa was waiting in the porch with the baby. Maybe she sensed something was wrong.

I said “Deepa, please don’t ask what happened to the tomatoes, now!  I’ll definitely tell you later.”
And she didn’t ask till I told her later in a better and milder mood.


I’ve told this story to many dudes between now and then, but nobody seemed to believe it. They just watched with skeptical amusement at the beginning which later turned into sympathy and took great care to avoid my eyes. I swear to you dudes every word of it is true as true can be!
henryblogwalker on The Nightmare Years.


  1. Hey Dude,

    I know there will be plenty of other dudes who have worked in the interior would agree with this sort of bitter experience and also might share there ones with u in the near future.


  2. this story just made tears well up in my eyes. it all paid off. look at you now. a blogwalker who brings joy to everyone. so it all turns out fine at the end. write more. we check up ur blogs for new ones always. good luck!

  3. Dear Henry,
    I agree with the first tomato, Henry. They were the best years of your life. When you turn back and look at your past, if you see it is full of experiences like you had, you will feel that it is nothing else, such experiences temper our life.

    I like the way you put it machang. Quite interesting. Keep on writing.

    Gaminie Samarakoon

  4. Gamini, Thanks for the comment, but at that time I didn't agree with any of those tomatoes.
    Thanks again. Keep visiting and commenting. I really love your comments.

    Did you visit my Sinhala blog for other stuff like that? http://matahithenahatty.wordpress.com/

  5. This is a very nice story..
    What Gamini ayya said is correct, this may be the best period of your life.
    At least now you have good memories about that period.
    So what else :)

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Hay Dude,
    I read ur article completely... OMG! 6 years in the hell hole :O . I have spend only 6 days now. They have promised to give us a special transfer list once we have completed minimum one year period. The description u mentioned about the traveling is exactly same in here. Once I got down at Vauniya after traveling through that damn route I too was covered with dust. i could write my name on my forearm. People routinely traveling in those buses are so adapted to that environment as they don't even close the shutters (instead of that they put a handkerchief on their faces).
    I do believe ur Tomato story as same thing would happen to me if Im not gonna get my transfer after completing the two years.

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