Wednesday, May 16, 2012

47. YOU


 You

YOU who stared at the mixed up fried rice sleepily after waking up from a deep sleep on our laps and said, “What’s this? Cat food?” because it was the first time you saw fried rice and because we used to mix up all the left over rice and feed the stray cats…,

YOU who had to watch too much TV because both of us were employed with no baby sitter and too busy, blurted out one morning when you were  woken up to go to school, “Wait a minute till this commercial break is over…okay?” and made us realize that even your dreams now had commercial breaks…,

YOU who made our hearts swell with pride to see you ride wobbling when I removed both the guide wheels off your little mountain bike…,

YOU who were cycling downhill behind our car wearing the blue helmet and suddenly disappeared and then reemerged out of the overgrown ditch blue helmet first and complained “It’s okay falling down. That’s not the problem. This stupid ta-ta hand was saying ta-ta ta-ta all the time while I was fallen in the ditch!” about that ta ta hand gadget you had me install on your bike…,

YOU who were then a first grader and made me meet your class teacher one day to listen to her complaint that my kid had walked on the piano keyboard playing with feet creating a new genre of music…,


YOU who beat the hell out of some bullies  not only with kicks and punches I had taught you in self defense but also with your motorcycle crash helmet and made me meet your principal for assault charges yet made me proud for standing up for yourself when conventional run of the mill methods failed…,


YOU who were playing commando dressed in your combat gear and yelled ‘YOU ARE UNDER ARREST. PUT YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR!’, pointing a toy revolver at her own chest with one hand, with the other hand in the air raised in surrender,  playing army and the rebels both making us realize how lonely you would have felt to be an only child.

YOU who finally played the trump card by making me see your Principal who was a very kind lady and a well renowned author who said “Hiruni came to meet me today Mr. Blogwalker,… and she wants me to tell you as her principal that she needs a brother to play with.” making me feel a lump in my throat,

YOU who stared at me with wide eyes when I ate an ice cream cup alone without buying one for you as a punishment for something that you did and made me feel miserable inwardly because you took it so gracefully… ,

YOU who defended the brother locking your grandma and aunt out of the house because you thought you were protecting him from them…,


YOU who became the youngest gymnast in the school gymnastic team at the age of 6 and brought home so many sports trophies and A reports and made us forget all the troubles we had…,

YOU who once walked out on us because this place was boring and made me cry when I saw the FINAL CALL and then GATE CLOSED on the big LCD screen at the airport…,

YOU who use Home English kitchen version sometimes just to piss me off and have done many more things that I have to cut short…,

…are celebrating your birthday today. 

 
Happy birthday
 HIRUNI OUR DAUGHTER!!
 



Sunday, May 13, 2012

46. GOODBYE MY UNSEEN FRIEND!


I write this post with a heavy heart, with a lump in my throat and tears welling up in my eyes. I never thought in my wildest dreams, I would have to write a post like this on Obaa ayya, at least not so soon.

When I saw the headings of the blogs in Weni’s blog roll, I was stunned. At first, I thought this was just another practical joke. When I showed them to Deepa, my wife who was nearby she was genuinely shocked.  “They must be pulling our legs!” we thought and then on second thoughts that if they are, it’s a bit farfetched.

In a moment the realization hit us that this was no joke and obaa has actually left us forever. We were fighting tears that were struggling to pour down our cheeks. We were so much absorbed in this tragedy that we weren’t aware that our school session was over and the other session had started.

I got to know obaa when I commented on a poem he had published on the blog ‘The Last Row’. He e-mailed me and then this developed into a friendship that lasted till the end. I used to do the illustrations for some of his blog posts, on his request.

I got to know what kind of a person he was when my laptop developed BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) last September.  Obaa inquired about my delay in publishing blog posts and also some illustrations I had promised to do for him. I answered him in the following email.

 Obaa,
 
Thanks for the reply.
Computer can't be repaired in a hurry because i think the dust has done the damage and is overheating. The problem is this is still covered by the warranty and I can't get back to Sri Lanka before end of Nov.
There is a screw I won't dare to remove at the bottom under the warranty sticker, so can't vacuum inside.
So not only blogging.
My son's studies, (he used to refer to PDF past papers while downloading games), our games, communication with daughter, reading newspapers, music, picture collections and doing homework and school work and many more, have come up to a halt.
And you can select the best of the pictures for your purpose.
Take care,
Henry

Obaa’s answer swept me off my feet because we had never met in the flesh and we had only a cyber friendship…

Hi Henry,
I have a lap top which I am not using any more. Only problem with that lap top is, it has to be connected to power, while being used. The battery is not holding its charge.. Anyway if you need it for your child's studies, please send me your mailing address, I'll put in a new battery and send it to you.
Obaa

He treated my child and his welfare as his own child’s. All of us were quite impressed by this gesture of humanily.

Obaa,

Thanks a million. I was just wondering that you don't even know me in the flesh. still you offered to give that laptop to me.
Still you don't have to do that and still I really appreciate it so much.

Obaa, I can manage with the school computers for the moment.

And we're going home in Nov and then we can get it done there as I think still 2 year warranty'd be valid when we go. It was bought on 19/12/2009.

See what a person who had never even seen us trying to do for us! This is quite a contrast to what we were used to.

Hey Henry,
What's this still & still business, the laptop is not for you, it’s for the kid if he needs it. About the batteries, you and I should run them to the last minute before recharging the bastards, otherwise they empty themselves pre maturely, that was what I learned from a so called expert.….
 Sanath Wijewardene

Even though we politely refused his offer, we got to know how generous and kind hearted he was. In a world full of hypocrites, cutthroats,   Obaa was a true friend and a gentleman. I’m kinda happy that we never met, simply because then it would have been much hard for me to bear this up.

MEMORIES DON’T LEAVE LIKE PEOPLE DO.
THEY ALWAYS STAY WITH YOU.

OBAA AYYA, MAY YOU ATTAIN NIBBANA.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

45. SHAME ON YOU, IF THAT’S YOU!



THE OFFICE DUDE:  

The office train to Kandy was pulling in at the platform. Hundreds of steel wheels rattled against the steel tracks with slowing tempo. The milling crowds on the platform edged towards the slowing train. Some were already hanging on to the handrails, their feet trying to find foothold  on the foot board or at least some horizontal surface. 
I clutched my bag and ran alongside the train, dodging commuters in the hope of grabbing the handrail to get into the train. This is the worst part of the day for most of us office workers. 

We office workers had what the other people called cliques on the train. Generally, we occupy the same place in the same compartment every day. As we have to travel a reasonably long distance, this was a tonic for our hectic day. We used to chat, joke, bully, play cards and an endless list of other fun things on the train. Some days there were some outsiders trying to grab our places and we had to declare war till the outside threat is withdrawn. This could be verbal abuse or just confrontation. Most of the time, the invaders pulled out without a fight, muttering curses under their breath.

As I was running I noticed this dude I had seen several days a week for the last few months looming out of the milling crowds and join the running mob. This dude was in a sour mood the other day when he had to give up the seat I secured for my partner. I didn’t like his face ever since. 

I came alongside with the handrail and grabbed it. Seconds later, I got a foothold too, and was riding the train. The dude with a bitter face who had joined the race later than I had,  was also making similar progress. He grabbed the rail and was running alongside desperately looking for a foothold. I dug my elbow into his exposed rib under the raised arm.  Dude cringed and let go of the handrail. And he disappeared in the milling crowd with a grunt. I pushed in with the crowd that emerged victoriously in the compartment and dumped my office bag on my seat. By the time the train ground to a halt I had completely forgotten about the dude.


SENAKA: 

I saw the train before I heard it. Its face growing larger at the end of the tracks every second. The PA system rambled away an unintelligible announcement in one of the three languages. I asked my daughter to stay put. She sat on the bench, smiled at me with rounded eyes, and nodded. I ran towards the oncoming train in the hope of grabbing a seat for my daughter and calling her putting my head out of the window, when it came to a standstill by the bench she sat. For the past few weeks I had done the calculations and knew which compartment stopped where. The milling crowds on the platform edged towards the slowing train. Some were already hanging on to the handrails, their feet trying to find access on the footboard or some horizontal surface. I was almost face to face with the train, me on the platform, train on the tracks. 

Hundreds of steel wheels rattled against the steel tracks with slowing tempo, but not slow enough. I swung around and started running back alongside the rushing train. The compartment I aimed for was the fifth one. I adjusted my speed to suit the decelerating train. Mmm.. there it comes. I grabbed the handrail with one hand and was running with along the platform. I tried to get a foothold desperately, and finally I thought I succeeded and heaved myself off the platform hanging onto the rail with all my might. 

Then it happened.

I felt an elbow digging into my ribs like a sledgehammer. I doubled up impulsively, letting go of the handrail and the foothold and thudded against the platform. As the train overshot, I was still rolling and rolling towards the edge of the platform closer to the rattling steel wheels rumbling by echoing through the station… My daughters innocent face flashed before my eyes. If I die here under this train now, what’s going to happen to my innocent helpless kid? 


HENRYBLOGWALKER THE DUDE: 


Some in the he crowds shrieked. Women’s hands shot up to grab their cheeks. Eyes rounded. Some screams froze in the throats.  Time seemed to stand still.
Then the rolling body stopped just short of the rumbling wheels. Someone grabbed him and pulled him to safety. Everyone heaved a sigh of relief.


SENAKA:
 
I was visibly shaking like a leaf. I had just escaped the jaws of death. I felt my knees had turned to jelly and  my throat like parchment. An unquenchable thirst! I felt feverish and heard my heart pounding away in my head. I collapsed on the bench next to my daughter and grabbed her never to let go… She clung to me. I heard her say, “Appachchi..” (Dad!)


FROM HENRYBLOGWALKER THE DUDE TO THE OFFICE DUDE: 


Dude, even though I hate to call you dude, I’d still call you like that. First words that came into my mind were all four lettered, but definitely not dude. I’m supposed to be a cool dude, so I have to live up to my reputation. I don’t know if you would ever set your eyes on this blog post, anyways what has to be said has to be said. 


First let me introduce Senaka, whose ribs you dug your elbow into. 


Senaka is a father of two kids, both daughters. First one is a perfectly normal and a bright kid. 


Second one wasn’t that lucky. When she was born 14 years ago, in private nursing home in Kandy, she didn’t breathe for some time. By the time the staff managed to get her to breath normally the deprivation of oxygen to her brain had caused enough damage to put her and her family into a lifelong suffering. 


Even today, she is about 7 years behind than her peers. In a world full of perverts, I don’t have to tell you what the two of them underwent to protect her. Senaka couldn’t hold on to one job for too long, both local and foreign, as he had dedicated his whole life for this child. They couldn’t achieve many things in life they would have done if it wasn’t for this few minutes without oxygen. This incident certainly turned their lives upside down.  


Even that day, when you nearly took his life, he had gone to Colombo with the second kid for a special therapy class, which she attended several days a week. He knew by experience that nobody offered the child a seat on that crowded train, all the way to Kandy. As a father he couldn’t bear up to see the child suffer in the crowded train for 114km.


The dude whose ribs you dug your elbow into, had spent the last 14 years constantly tending to his daughter, being a shadow to her in a world where there are mothers who dumped their newly born babies in trashcans and fathers who raped their own daughters.


Moments before you knocked him off the train with your elbow, this dude had left his disabled daughter on a bench on the platform and risked his life by hanging on to the moving train to get themselves a seat so that she could sleep on his lap after a hectic day for them both.


While you were digging your elbow into her father, that child whose life wouldn’t have had a meaning without a father like him, was waiting with wide eyes, sitting on that bench for him to call her through a window of the train.  


I can visualize this because one day I stopped the van on a narrow hilly road in Kandy for Senaka to go a wayside grocery store. This girl was sitting at the back with my family. Then because another vehicle appeared, I had to take the van a few meters ahead to allow it to pass. When the vehicle started to move without Senaka, “This girl started screaming, “ Uncle, Don’t leave my dad. He’ll be all alone…” This brought tears to our eyes. Imagine how she would have wailed if he rolled a few more inches and ended up under the train that day…!


You nearly ended the life of a dude who missed many good things in life, because of the fate dished out to him.


And most of all, the dude whose life you nearly ended that day, happens to be henryblogwalker the Dude’s brother in law.  He married my wife’s sister who is a lecturer of English in a College of Education, making it impossible for her to attend to this kid all the time like her father does. I can go on like this, making you feel more and more miserable for what you have done, but there’s no point… and I’m no sadist.
So I ask you of one thing before I end this post…

THE NEXT TIME YOU ELBOW YOUR WAY THROUGH YOUR LIFE,
PLEASE STOP TO CONSIDER WHOSE RIBS YOU DIG INTO.
BECAUSE SO MUCH IS RIDING ON SOME PEOPLE’S LIVES.

The Singhala translation of this blog post titled "ඒ පාහර වැඩේ කලේ කවුද?" is available at my Singhala  blog මට හිතෙන හැටි.