Nari Béna or Hivala Saha Gama
Our son-in-law is a Jackal!) by
Illustrated by Kumaran
Call of the
Another Srilankan folk tale updated! This story appeared in the
Kumarodaya 5, a Sinhala text for the sixth grade in 1952 and can be found in
later editions (Gunasena Publishers). It has been made into a play ("Nari
Béna"). Our version has been modernised and jazzed up! The Gamarala in
this story is a different one from the one that appears in other
Once upon a time in a
village just off Avissawella (in Sri Lanka) lived a family consisting of an
elderly Gamarala (village elder), Mrs Gamarala and their teenage tearaway
daughter. The old couple were pretty senile and naive to the extent of being
utterly thick. Like two planks...put together. The daughter was pretty, modern,
restless and dressed in revealing short black dresses with thin straps much to
the irritation of the elderly parents. She always listened to loud music on the
radio and crossed and uncrossed her legs.
**** One day there was a blazing row between
mother and daughter after she (the daughter) turned up late one night with
smeared lipstick, smelling strongly of booze and slightly listing to starboard.
The mother lost her cool and shouted to the effect that "One day we are going
to give you in marriage to a jackal". "With a massive dowry" she added.
Unfortunately for them a jackal was
listening to this argument from the thicket at the back of the garden. There
are a lot of jackals in Sri Lanka. The jackal thought "Cor! Isn't she a bit of
an alright!" and his imagination started running riot. Visions of a radiant
bride in white, the free meals, the dowry and (ahem!) the honeymoon fired the
jackal's imagination. Without realising it the jackal let out a vulgar
laugh ("Hokaa! Hokaa! Hok!Hok! Hok!" on a key of A minor), leaped in the air,
repeatedly ran around in a small circle before streaking off into the
jungle only stopping once to raise his hind leg and urinate into a bush to mark
The laugh of a jackal is considered a bad omen and on hearing this cold shivers
ran down the spine of Mrs Gamarala. She covered herself with a blanket.
Time passed and the daughter was getting increasingly unmanageable. She would
set off in the morning apparently to work in a Garment Factory at Nugegoda but
would come home with lipstick all over her face etc. The old couple decided
that it was time to settle her down with a husband of sober habits.
Advertisements were placed in the "Mangala Yojana" (Marriage Proposals) column
of the state controlled newspapers. (Most people only read the marriage
proposals of these newspapers). A large dowry was on offer. Eventually,
after going through a number of abortive proposals (the horoscopes didn't
match) they managed to shortlist two. One bloke was already married and was
scratched out. That left a 36yr old, skinny, pol-piththa (coconut frond)
like-Arya-Sinhala suit-wearing-johnny with slightly less sex-appeal than a
discarded pol kombaya. Surprisingly,
the daughter agreed. The day of the wedding arrived and no expenses had
been spared as far as the reception was concerned. It was an evening wedding in
accordance with auspicious hours. In
addition to the traditional Kavum, Kokis, Kiributh and Athiraha stuff there
were all sorts of stuff from Elephant House in Colombo. The groom arrived in
good time looking increasingly like a dried pol piththa and the bride looked
radiant (like most brides do 'till you take their make-up off).
The Day Of The Jackal The
ceremony was about to start when a hired bus arrived just after sundown and a
group off well-dressed jackals got off shouting "Hokaa! Hokaa! Hok!Hok! Hok!".
The leader of the group approached the mother of the bride and very
politely but firmly said "Mother-in-law can't you recognise me? You did say
that you were going to marry your daughter off to a jackal didn't you? Well
here I am to take her away! Where is the dowry! Ah?"
A cold shiver ran down Mrs Gamarala's spine but
there was no blanket to hand and so the cold shiver kept on running up and down
the s. Shivers are always cold even
when you have Malaria...by the way. There was pin-drop silence but no one dropped a pin. The silence was
broken by the rest of the jackal party going "Hokaa! Hokaa! Hok!Hok! Hok!
Hoo! Hoo! Hoooo!" Some of the jackals were already helping themselves to
the food without being invited and were drinking out of Sharona bottles
containing an amber coloured non-Sharona like liquid.
The old Gamarala coughed and took control of the
situation and asked his wife "Is this true what this Hivala has to say?"
She admitted it was.
Another silence broken only by the jackals going
Baila Time! Under the circs. they decided to keep their word. Civil
action in cases of Breach of Promise can be expensive. The real groom (the pol
piththa) raised no objections and departed and the jackal got married to the
girl. The girl didn't complain. The
jackal's party got hold of the dowry, went out and came back with more amber
liquid. They drank and ate in that order and started dancing to loud Baila.
The bride joined in the dancing
slightly lifting her sari to the tune of "Redda Ussa Ussa!...Passa! Passa!"
etc. Some of the jackals threw up in the flower pots and tripped up on each
others tails. Some ran off into the garden and urinated without raising their
hind legs because they were standing on their hind legs. Some started
discarding their jackal skins and that included the groom.
then that the grim truth dawned on the old couple....with the subtlety of a
falling coconut! They had married off
their daughter to a University student that she had been having a clandestine
affair with! "Aney apata wuna
wedé" ("See what misfortune has befallen us!") cried the old couple.
Their cries were drowned out by a raucous rendition of the old classic
"Chuda Maniké Balala..." to the accompaniment of the sound of smashing
Moral: Universities are breeding grounds for