Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Happy Anniversary

A love so sweet
Yet so strong
A bond so deep
That  wins it all.
My only wish
Is that some day
I’ll have a love
As special as yours.
A love that never
Ever fails
In good and bad
It stands strong.
And on your 26th
We want you two to know
That the years you’ve passed are just a few
The years yet to come are very much more
May your love grow stronger each single day
With new memories to cherish
With happiness in your hearts
Thaththa and Amma,
Wish you a very very happy 26th anniversary!  
Thanks for the best love story we’ve ever seen!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

55.Veggie Remedy For The Guilty Feeling

This is another story from Padidilian series. 

Suresh is Umesh’s younger brother. We became buddies during the time I was a boarder there. Well, not exactly. I’m not doing justice to them and their hospitality, if I use the word ‘boarder’, which is an ugly, commercial word. I was actually their guest, because Umesh was my friend. And they didn’t charge me for anything. 

I was in my first year at the Teachers’ College in Peradeniya, Kandy. Umesh was still working in Ampara and came home about twice a month.

In a world where everything was money, the Padidilians were an exceptional family. They never asked for money for my stay, nor food. When I made an attempt to pay them they flatly refused it and said I was Umesh’s friend and that their home was no boarding place. I could stay with them as long as I liked so long as I don’t try to be funny offering money in exchange of friendship. 

Sri Lankans are a hospitable nation. So hospitable that the westerners would misunderstand it for something else. Still this was very strange. And them not being millionaires either. They treated me as family. 

I somehow was suffering from this guilty feeling of being a parasite and taking the mean advantage of their kindness. 

So one day, I bought a huge bag of vegetables home, just because this guilt was tormenting me. As soon as I went in the door, Suresh saw me. 

“Hey, dude, where are you going fully loaded” with that sneering grin he is famous for. 

I, suddenly realizing what was in store for me, said. 

“Dude, do me a help! Can you take this into the kitchen for me?” 

“Whaaat??? You brought all these for us?” Suresh hollered. “Mommy, mommy, come and take a look at this. Look… we got a visitor…Mommy!” 

The whole household came out running to gape at me as if I was something the cat had just brought in and then started howling with laughter. I felt like a clown. 

“What made you do such a stupid thing, my boy?” Mommy asked finally, when she recovered  enough to speak. 

And that, unfortunately, wasn’t the end of it. It was only the beginning of some Padidilian dinner time entertainment.

 Each time they cooked one of the vegetables I had brought that day, either mommy or a sister just would announce at the dinner table. “Today special is our dudes, beans and corrots…” and so on. 

And mommy would watch me for some time with her wide motherly grin and say” Henry, you are a wonderful…” Before she finishes her sentence I hastily to fill the blank “...idiot”, in the hope of avoiding a more eloquent vocabulary . 

And the day when I saw the last of the vegetables, no need to say, I felt so relieved. So long as I stayed with the Padidilians, I never did anything ‘stupid’ like that. 

 And In a few months I moved to the college hostel. 

I miss that loving family even now. 

If you haven't read the Part One of the Series "Tongue Twister Family", click here

If you want to read the original Sinhala version of this post 
පැඩිඩිලියන් 2 – වරදකාරී හැඟීමට එළවලු වලින් ප්‍රතිකාර, click here.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

54. Tongue Twister Family.

We’ve inherited so much from our imperialistic invaders, the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British. Some of us aren’t even aware that kamisa (shirt), sapaththu (shoes), paan (bread) isthoappuva (verandah), aren’t even Sinhalese words. They’ve run so deep and are comfortably localized and naturalized.

I’m sure you are so much familiar with Silvas,  Pereras , Fernandos and Fonsekas.

But ever heard of Padidilians

Well, I once knew a whole family of them. I met Umesh Padidilian for the first time at the Pre Service Teacher Training at the Teachers’ College at Peradheniya in  Kandy.  Umesh is a handsome dude who reminded one of Ranjan Madugalle, the cricketer.

Oh what a time it was!! 

After the pre service, to the immense relief of both of us, both Umesh and I were appointed to the same area for the compulsory difficult area service. Our schools were in the city and within a few minutes’ walk from each other.
This compulsory difficult area service for all government employees is generally regarded as ‘going to hell alive’. And everyone was dreaming about coming back home as soon as possible from those God forsaken places. We were no exceptions. And today, though it may seem strange, I feel so much nostalgic about those years.

Okay, back to the Padidilians.  

The first impression you get about the Padidilians is their talkativeness. They have a way of talking themselves out of any situation. They were rich in vocabulary and knew how to use it to the best effect. I was never bored of listening to their spicy tales with that unique Padidilian accent in eloquent English or Sinhala. Even the way their mouths worked was something to gawk at.  They had the talent of narrating even the most boring story in the most appealing way possible. 

To get to Ampara, where we were appointed, you have to pass Kandy, then those famous 18 hairpin bends, Mahiyangana and Padhiyathalava. And more than normal CTB buses, there were those small minivans like Isuzu Elf Route Vans, Toyota Hiace and Nissan Caravans. 

And there were military check points on the way!

One such day, at a check point either at Mahaoya, or Padhiyathalava, I can’t remember which, they were stopped for inspection. If you aren’t familiar with the routine. First, you are stopped at the barrier with a stop sign. Then the driver switches off the engine and waits. The conductor reports to the temporary office with documents. The passengers take their bags and get off to form a line with IDs in hand to be scrutinized , patted down, questioned and then walk through the barrier under the vigilant eyes of soldiers with T56 automatic rifles. Once cleared the passengers flock on the other side waiting for the vehicle which would be searched and released before crossing the barrier. 

Once the vehicle arrives, the passengers retrieve their original seats with mixed success and wait for the others who are still going through the inspection process to arrive.

That day, there was unusual delay for the van to resume the journey. When the passengers peeked through the dusty rear window, all they saw was one passenger being grilled by the soldiers who were now gathered around. The other passengers were growing furious as the temperature and the humidity inside the jam packed small van was rising. After a lengthy delay of sweating and cursing in the sweltering heat, the detained passenger arrived red faced and furious at the uniforms. 

Then, to make the matters worse, passengers started grilling him.

“Why did it take so long, sir?”

“Oh, that was because my name was a bit unfamiliar. They were suspicious.”

“Why? Aren’t you Sinhalese?” Passengers asked with growing suspicion.

“I am Sinhala alright, dude!” This was said a bit harshly.

“Then, what’s wrong?” One dude asked.

“Ok, ok, What is your name sir?” A bit more sensible passenger asked.

“Umesh Padidilian”

Everybody gawked with jaws dropping.

“Paddy..what?” There was a murmer while everyone was trying to pronounce the unpronounceable.

“Padidilian,” Umesh said with his patience wearing thin.

“What the hell kind of a name is that sir?”

“Dude, My great great-great-grandfather was Spanish!” Umesh explained.

“What the f***** Hell, sir,” one passenger yelled, “Why the hell don’t you have a pronounceable name like the rest of us without wasting everyone’s time?”

By the time he told us this story at dinner, he was back in his normal jovial mood.

Click here for part 2 of the Series, "Veggie Remedy For The Guilty Feeling"

If you want to read the original Sinhala version of this post 


Saturday, August 4, 2012

53. Some Guys Have All The Luck!

“When I discovered I really have no talent in writing I had been a writer for 15 years!”
“Then what did you do? Gave up writing?”
“How can I? By then I had become a popular writer.”
     Though this is just a joke I have heard, it has something common with my situation.  Though I’ve been a teacher most of my life, teaching is way down in my career preference list. Or in other words a list of cool jobs.  Come to think of it! Teaching is not there at all.

     Just take a quick look at this very concise and censored list: This is not necessarily  in order of preference.

Photographer, Photo Journalist, Journalist, Travel Writer, Writer, Artist, Architect, Civil Engineer, Draughtsman, Landscape Artist, Horticulturist, Pilot, Aircraft Technician, Rally Driver, F1 Driver, PTI, Doctor, Surgeon, Seaman, Computer Dude, Computer aided designing , Fashion designer, Advertising, Guitarist, Engine Driver…
     This, by no means suggest that I’m an unpopular teacher. According to the critics, I’m supposed to be one of the best, ever, if this doesn’t sound like blowing my own trumpet. But I hate teaching so much, I’d rather be anywhere else other than the classroom on a  Monday morning. I’d wake up in the morning to go anywhere else other than to the school!

     My ambition had taken different perspectives through the passage of time. Sounds familiar, huh? Each time I visited a circus I had wanted to be an acrobat and  I thought it would be an awesome thing to be an ice cream van driver because I would be the center of attention of all the kids and also I had the chance to park under a shady tree and eat my merchandise  if I pleased.  So time and time again it switched between fireman, bus driver, jack hammer operator, crane operator, engine driver, miming artist, drummer, girls’ school bus driver and so on.

      I became a teacher because I happened to pass an entrance exam I wrote while I was job-hunting. Teaching, a thankless job,  lost its attraction due to the extreme stress it entailed and lack of freedom. You had to live up to the expectations the society set for you.  And too much was expected of you. Job satisfaction was some mythical thing. You are rarely appreciated, but more often criticized. It had long term goals most of the time depended on luck and the effort of someone else. A baker had a better chance, because if he bakes bread he gets bread in a few hours. 

     I always thought playing the guitar would be cool, which I used to do in my free time.  Well, at least until the day I met Dhanushka, a friend of mine who worked in the army band.

"Hey, you are one really lucky dude",I said giving a light playful buddy punch on his chest.
"Why are you saying like that Henry Aiya?" Dhanushka asked. 
He always had a pleasant smile.

"Dude. Our jobs have a hell of a lot of stress. Whenever I get some free time, I love to play the guitar. It really unwinds me. I’d be doing that that all day long if given a chance than to teach a bunch of unruly kids.  But I have to return to reality."


"So you dudes on the other hand, get paid to do a cool thing like playing a guitar. Aren’t you lucky? I feel so jealous about you guys.  Some guys have all the luck and some guys get all the breaks! 
“Ha ha ha!!!”  the dude snickered in obvious amusement.

"What’re you laughing at? What’s so funny?" I asked.

"Hey dude, listen. I also used to love playing guitar before I joined the army band. Now that I have to do it as a job, I started hating it. Do you know in my free time, I don’t even want to touch a guitar.  I’d rather dig a hole in the ground than playing the guitar in my free time, oh yeah!"

I watched him letting what he just said sink in slowly.

"And do you know" he continued,  "these city schools ask for our service to train their school bands. We guys in the army band really fall over each other to grab a chance to train school bands? We love working with children, dude." 

Oh, Come on man! Gimme a break!!