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Chandrika and I | Erik Solheim & I | My Part in the Census | Census Again! | Not Cricket! | I Crossed The Line | My Part in my Funeral | The Gamarala and the Temple | Gamarala and the Puhul | Two men and the bear | Incense and Candlewax | Fasting & Feasting | My Father & The Devil | Nari Bena (GM and the Jackal)

{short description of image} How the Gamarala (nearly!) went to Heaven
Gamarala Devlova Giya Hatti

A classic Srilankan sinhala folk story given the MadPagetm treatment!
Illustrated by Kumaran
Explanatory note: This story is based, rather loosely, on a very old classic Srilankan folk story. A Gamarala is best described as a village elder/farmer. As usual the story has been given the MadPage tm treatment and modernised with a very slight political/social commentary slant...

Once upon a time......
or Ekamuth Eka Rataka...
Once upon a time a Gamarala lived in a remote village in the jungle with his wife and half-a-dozen assorted kids and his mother-in-law. Life was tough. Not only because of the mother-in-law.
Foreign aid never reached this part of the country. Most of the foreign aid went towards sustaining politicians and terrorist groups. The poor Gamarala was at least lucky to have his own rice field (paddy field). That was why he was the Gamarala.

Crop Circles
Every morning after his cup of tea (strong, black and with three and a half sugars) he would wander off to inspect his field. One morning he was surprised to find that the rice field showed what appeared to be crop circles. The Gamarala had not heard of crop circles but he could recognise elephant tracks when he saw them and which they were.
That night after dinner he decided to lie in wait in the paddy field.
Soon after dusk he heard a low rumble like that of a four-high-bypass-turbofan-engined aircraft on low throttle and looked towards the jungle fully expecting a common-or-garden Elephas maximas to emerge from the jungle. It came as a surprise therefore when he saw a large white object in the sky approaching from a North-Westerly direction.
To his amazement this turned out to be a white elephant much bigger than Walt Disney's Dumbo approaching at a speed of approx 120 knots with flaps (ears) fully deployed and undercarriage down. The white elephant made a perfect four-point landing, reversed thrust and taxied to the paddy field and set to work on the rice.
The stunned Gamarala watched this strange phenomenon. He was stunned because it is not every day that Gamaralas see white elephants gorging on rice. In the cities this would not be considered strange. Stranger things happened in cities all the time.
Having gorged itself on rice the elephant eventually took off heavenwards.The same thing happened the next day and the day after. On the third day nothing happened. The Gamarala wondered why the elephant had not turned up when he suddenly realised that it was the Poya Day. Nothing much happens on the Poya day in Srilanka. White elephants don't fly on Poya days.
The day after the flights resumed.
The Gamarala started thinking. This was obviously an elephant from heaven. It had to be because it was white, it was obviously well-fed and fat and it looked happy. If I were to grab the elephant's tail in the same way that refugees hide inside the wheel wells of departing aircraft then I might be able to go to heaven. Heaven must be a great place. They work in Dollars. No one is poor. Everything is big. Life is easy......

The Gamarala of course was a decent sort of bloke. He did not want to leave his wife or kids behind. He didn't give a toss for his mother-in-law but the wife might want to take her along as well. Excess baggage! he thought.
That night he told his wife about his experiences and his plan. The conversation started off in the traditional Srilankan manner: "Mé! Ahunada?" (Did you hear?)...........Took a lot of convincing. She thought he was drunk and said "Mé! Kagahane nathuwa budiyagannawa!" ("Shut up and go to sleep!"). Took a lot of convincing.

Planning took a few more days and meanwhile there were regular flights.

Final Call
On the appointed day the Gamarala and his extended family gathered at the paddy field. Because of air traffic problems the elephant was late by approx 50 minutes. These were anxious minutes. The Gamarala drank Arrack to calm his nerves. Eventually the elephant landed and went through its usual routine. The turnaround time was short. Just before take off the Gamarala grabbed the elephants tail. Mrs. Gamarala grabbed her husband around his waist in pillion rider fashion. The kids grabbed their mother and each other in order of seniority, with mother-in-law bringing up the rear, in Conga line fashion. With a gentle pushing of the throttles and flaps 10 degrees the white elephant took off into the night sky with a loud but reassuaring rumble.
Jumbos can carry a decent payload and the slightly increased take-off weight did not bother the elephant at all. At 2000 ft the lights of Colombo were clearly visible on the Port side. At 4000ft there was a bit of turbulance and the Gamarala wished that he hadn't drunk that much arrack in the departure lounge. At 6000ft the Jumbo cleared the low cloud ceiling into the clear moonless sky and having received ATC clearance settled into a steady climb to Flight Level 33. A faint glow of twilight was visible to the west. The east was dark. The stars were bright.

"Ahhh!" thought the Gamarala. Very soon we will be in heaven he thought. As soon as I get a half decent job, even if it is with McDonalds, I am going to buy a Merc......No! A Cadillac..... No! A stretch limmo!... Mother-in-law can go in the boot! She is an old bag anyway! Ha! Ha!
10000ft..... 11000ft..... 11500ft.......and then disaster struck!

Unknown to the Gamarala the elephant had been gorging itself on over-ripe Jak fruit (Waraka) that morning. Unfortunately overindulgence on over-ripe Waraka can lead to flatulance. With the rapid rate of ascent and the consequent rapid drop in atmospheric pressure the intestinal pressures had increased to dangerous levels, particularly in the lower colon/rectal end. Passing 11800ft suddenly and without warning the elephant suffered explosive decompression and the Gamarala who was hanging on to the tail got a facefull! Oxygen masks did not deploy as oxygen masks only deploy at altitudes above 12000ft.
The surprised Gamarala said "Shit!" which was appropriate under the circumstances. In his surprise he let go of the Jumbo's tail which was inappropriate under the circumstances. The Gamarala and his whole entourage went into a free fall in the night sky.

Are we there yet Daddy?
But then this was the 21st Century! Even Gamaralas of remote Srilankan villages had heard of parachutes! With a shout of "Geronimo!" or rather the Srilankan equivalent of Geronimo (which is "Adoooo!") the Gamarala et al entered the free fall.

"Dad! This is great!" said one of the kids. "Shut up!" said the Gamarala through gritted Betel stained teeth.. He couldn't remember the kid's name as he had so many kids and wasn't even sure if it was one of his.

The Gamarala took control of the situation. They were falling through 10000ft and then through 9000ft. At 8000ft they deployed their 'chutes. The white canopies mushroomed in the night sky and they wafted slowly earthwards.
"Daddy! Are we there yet?" asked a small voice. "Hey Dad! Are we going back home?" asked a medium sized voice. "Mission aborted!" said a bigger and slightly sarcastic kids voice.
"Shut your bloody faces! All of you!" said the Gamarala... "None of your smart-arsed comments!" said the exasperated Gamarala slightly ungritting his teeth. Constant gritting of teeth causes premature wear of the enamel....

Down to earth
The landing was rather uneventful except that the Gamarala who was rather big landed awkwardly in the muddy paddy field and ended up waist deep in mud. They pulled him out with the harness of the 'chute.
Later that night after a good scrub and a wash the Gamarala sat in his favourite chair in the verandah, lit a smelly Jaffna cigar and contemplated the day's events.
The fireflies were flitting around in the darkness flashing their navigation lights. The mosquitoes avoided him. Mosquitoes don't like the smell of elephant dung. Small consolation! he thought. He could hear his wife and mother-in-law arguing in the kitchen. God! how he hated the woman! The mother-in-law that is. Could strangle her, he thought. Pity her parachute opened.
And the bloody kids! The bloody kids were running around in a Conga line circle making loud elephant-fart-type noises whilst holding their noses in an obnoxious fashion.
They are making fun of me he thought. "Bugger you!" he shouted. "Not in front of the children dear!" admonished Mrs. Gamarala in her down-to-earth placid manner...
"BUGGER THE WHOLE BLOODY LOT OF YOU!!" he shouted loudly but silently. Years of married life had taught him the art of how to shout loudly but silently. The sky was dark. Cloud cover. No stars. No Arrack...

His gloomy thoughts were interrupted by one of the kids. "Daddy!" piped up a small voice in the oil-lamp-gloominess.
"If Heaven is such a great place why does the elephant have to come down to earth for its meals?"
Good point! thought the Gamarala brightening up and patting the kid on the head. Bright kid, he thought. Must be one of mine, he thought...

Life on earth is not too bad...
Moral: There are loads of morals in this story. Make one up for yourselves!

©Copyright Gyan Fernando 2001 First written on the 26th of September 2001
Chandrika and I | Erik Solheim & I | My Part in the Census | Census Again! | Not Cricket! | I Crossed The Line | My Part in my Funeral | The Gamarala and the Temple | Gamarala and the Puhul | Two men and the bear | Incense and Candlewax | Fasting & Feasting | My Father & The Devil | Nari Bena (GM and the Jackal)

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