|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.
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
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
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
The day after the flights
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
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
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
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
"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!
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.
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
"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
"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....
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
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
His gloomy thoughts were interrupted by one of
the kids. "Daddy!" piped up a small voice in the
"If Heaven is
such a great place why does the elephant have to come down to earth for its
Good point! thought the Gamarala brightening up and patting the
kid on the head. Bright kid, he thought. Must be one of mine, he
Life on earth is not too
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