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SRI LANKA Zany stories.....Classics updated...........................Now with illustrations!

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{short description of image} The Gamarala and the Ash Gourd
Puhul Hora
by Gyan Fernando
Illustrated by Kumaran
The Gamarala
Technical details: This is another classic Srilankan folk story but spoilt by the rather tame and goody-goody ending. So we jazzed it up and in keeping with present violent times in the old republic have added a bit of violence! But don't worry: No one gets killed and so it has a U certificate and is therefore suitable for family viewing!
Once upon a time there was a Gamarala (village elder). This is the same Gamarala who appears in previous stories so read them first. He was a cultivator by day time and an Arrakku soak by night but he never was a violent man. With a dozen or so assorted kids the only solace he could find was of the bottled form.

The Ash Gourd

One morning he got up with a hangover and after the usual cup of plain tea he went down to his plantation to check on his prize ash gourds (Alu Puhul). This was a Monday morning and as far as the Gamarala was concerned this was like turning up in the office on a Monday morning...except that the Gamarala had never worked in an office but some of us have and know the feeling.....
The birds sang causing the Gamarala to wince. He had that bad a hangover. The Gamarala went straight to his Ash Gourd plot to check on his favourites and was totally taken aback to find several missing!

The Gamarala did a double take and came out with a strong Srilankan swearword (which refers to a certain part of the female anatomy) which we decline to mention or translate!
"Fine start to the day, this!" thought the Gamarala, scratching his head and then his bum in that order. When this action failed to produce results, like all married men, he thought of his wife and decided to consult her.
"Good woman!" thought the Gamarala "She will come up with an idea!"

Mrs Gamarala of course had read an old story about the theft of Ash Gourds. Ash Gourds are rather heavy and the only way to carry them without giving yourself a double hernia is to carry them on your shoulder.They are also distinctive in that they have a generous dusting of mildew which gives them their name and which gets on your hands and on your shoulders if you happen to handle them.

Trace evidence

This is "Trace evidence" in Forensic parlance or "Puhul Hora Ka ren dané" as the saying goes which roughly translated means "The gourd thief has trace evidence on his shoulders"

Easy Peasy! Just go down to the bazaar and make the announcement "Puhul Hora Ka ren dané" and the guy who reflexly brushes his shoulders is the thief!
That's how it works!
This is where the original story ended and the Gamarala caught the thief.
But this is Srilanka after a 20 yr old civil war. People are much cleverer or rather more crooked.

The worst rascals are politicians, supporters of politicians, Police, Army deserters, imitation Buddhist monks and Catholic priests.
On his wife's suggestion he went down to the bazaar and tried the old trick but they just laughed at him.... especially W. William Appuhamy ("Willie Mahattaya") who ran a tavern and illicit distillery (Kassippu joint) and a combined brothel just across the road from the Police station.

Cops and Robbers

Willie was a typical thug from the south who specialised in living off poor villagers in the Polonnaruwa area. The police were well supplied with moonshine and other services (Ahem!) and they had an "understanding" with Willie Mahattaya.

"Go and tell the Police" said Willie Mahattaya brushing his shoulders in a sarcastic manner. He knew what had happened to the Ash Gourds!
He had stolen them and given them to the Police by way of protection money!

"The Gamarala can jump up and down if he wanted to but I've got the Law on my side! Ha! Ha ! Ha!" thought the obnoxious Willie.

" Ha! Ha! Ha! Ask Willie Mahattaya" laughed the equally obnoxious desk Sergeant when the Gamarala went to the Police Station to complain and added, rather unnecessarily, "Palayang Yako!"

Gamarala and Mrs The crestfallen Gamarala came back home (The Gamarala didn't actually have a crest but had his hair tied into a little knot at the back of his head)
The Gamarala opened a bottle of arrack. The kids were silent for a change. The Gamarala fully expected them to laugh at him in an obnoxious manner and brush their shoulders in a sarcastic manner but they didn't; thus depriving the Gamarala of an opportunity to vent his anger.

The Gamarala put his lips to the bottle.
Mrs Gamarala silently manifested herself and placed a clean glass and a few Vaddai in front of him. She had the curious combined aroma of sandlewood and curry that Sri Lankan women smell of. "Good woman" thought the Gamarala.

"Bugger this!" thought the Gamarala after the first gulp of arrack. I will have to do something about Willie Mahattaya and the Police.

Panathi patha
In spite of the seething anger inside him the Gamarala came to the realisation that he was a non-violent man. After all as a Buddhist ( but who never went to the temple) he could remember the precept Though Shalt Not Kill: Panathi Patha Veramani Sicca Padang Samadiyami.
So there was no question of chucking hand grenades at Willie Mahattaya's House Of Ill-Repute or at the Police House of IR although grenades were easy to come by and quite cheap.
"I might change my mind after I pull the pin and blow my own balls off!" thought the Gamarala.
In any case both Willie Mahattaya and the Police have superior fire power...I am not a violent man but something has to be done....Hic!

The next day he took a bus to Polonnaruwa Town and bought essential supplies including another bottle of Arrack.
In Polonnaruwa Town there was some talk of an impending terrorist attack and the atmosphere was tense.........
The Gamarala got back to his village and told all and sundry about the rumours of terrorist action that he had heard in town grossly exaggerating them.
Grossly exaggerating news is quite normal in Srilanka.

After dark the Gamarala, having adjusted blood alcohol levels for the dangerous mission in hand, crept up behind Willie Mahattaya's establishment. There were sounds of drunken roistering coming from the Tavern and female type giggles from the brothel.
"Sod them!" thought the Gamarala.
He laid several rows of firecrackers in the undergrowth and lit a time honoured Srilankan type Time Delay Fuse consisting of several joss sticks tied together. (Most SriLankan schoolboys master this technique by the 6th grade and some get expelled from school soon afterwards.)

May The Darkness Be With You!

This was the "Power-Cut-time" and the darkness worked in the Gamarala's favour.
It was The New Moon or the "Masay Poya" as well and the whole place was in total darkness or in local parlance "Gana Andura".

Next he crept across the road and behind the police station....The Police were getting drunk as well...A drunken copper was urinating in the back garden.
The Arrack was beginning to work on the Gamarala and just for the heck of it he decided to creep up behind Seelawathie's house as well...
Seelawathie was a rather tarty 30-something woman with a Sigiriya-fresco-type figure with massive child-bearing hips. Her husband worked in the Middle East. Without a man she was a highly excitable woman with a scream like a locomotive air horn.
He! He! (hic!) thought the Gamarala.


His work finished the Gamarala crept back home and set to work on the rest of the Arrack. Thus fortified and feeling happy he was about to launch into his usual conversation with the Missus to maintain an air of nonchalance when several loud reports followed by a so called blood-curdling-type woman's scream was heard in the bazaar.
"There she goes!" thought the Gamarala recognising his handiwork and Seelawathie's air raid siren-like scream....The Gamarala pretended that he hadn't heard anything.
In the bazaar things were happening very quickly.
Mistaking the Gamarala's firecrackers behind Seelawathi's house for machinegun fire and thinking that this was a terrorist attack the coppers, characteristically, decided to get out by the back door and hide in the jungle. No sooner had they thought of this when "machine gun fire" erupted behind the police station and in the jungle. Escape was clearly not possible in that direction.
Several coppers needed a change of underwear.
There was only one thing to do and that was to grab their machine guns and grenades and run out of the front.

The next minute gunfire could be heard from the otherside of the road and from Willie's establishment.

On hearing the "gunfire" Willie had grabbed his arsenal and had started firing in the direction of the "attack" which happened to be in the general direction of the Police Station.
At about the same time the firecrackers behind Willie's house started going off causing Willie to nearly shoot himself in the foot.
He was obviously in a crossfire!
Several naked tarts screamed and jumped out of the brothel windows closely followed by their clients.

Kasippu will flow like....

After that the action became rather confusing. A flare fired by a constable landed on a barrel of kassipu and set Willie's distillery on fire.
Several barrels exploded and burning kassippu flowed out into the street. Seeing his assets and life's savings going up in flames and thinking that this was a cunning plan by the police to take over his business Willie threw several hand grenades in the general direction of the Police Station.
The Police station exploded in an orange ball of fire in Hollywood disaster movie fashion but by this time the coppers had managed to get out and were firing wildly.
Stumbling in the dark the sergeant fell into a cess pit and swallowed several mouthfuls of the contents of the same.
A highly excited police dog by the name of "Viduliya" ("Lightning") trained to attack terrorists forgot his training manual and bit a policeman.
"Budu Ammooooo" screamed the policeman.

Deyyo Saakki!

Just about the same time as his own spilt moonshine set fire to his sarong a stray bullet hit Willie's left knee shattering the joint and lacerating the popliteal artery........"Deyyo Saaaaakki!" screamed Willie invoking the Gods.

Right on cue the power cut suddenly ended revealing a sorry sight.

They all blamed it on the terrorists of course!


Willie Mahattaya was taken to hospital in time and survived the experience although he had to undergo a left above knee amputation.
Realising that he was going to survive he stopped invoking the Gods and reverted to the more earthy type of Srilankan swearing.
This type of swearing mostly refers to the pedigree of the person being insulted or their mothers, and in this case that of the police.

Willie had also suffered 2nd degree burns in the areas normally covered by the sarong. With one leg gone, a painfully burnt bum and most of his assets destroyed Willie realised it would be dangerous to stay on in the village and decided to return to his own village just off Ahungalla.
The Police station had been reduced to a pile of smouldering debris of the 11th of September type.
On this basis the police managed to get posted to Colombo.
With the Police and Willie Mahattaya gone peace returned to the village...

Stop it!

"That's enough drinking" ("Oya biwwa athi!") rebuked Mrs Gamarala with an imperceptible smile and noticing that the Gamarala was grinning from ear to ear...
The Gamarala put the glass down...

Moral: Those who live by the gun are scared of firecrackers!
First written on the 4 th of February (Independence Day) 2002
© Gyan Fernando 2002
Chandrika and I | Erik Solheim & I | My Part in the Census | Census Again! | Not Cricket! | I Crossed The Line | My Part in my Funeral | How The Gamarala Went To Heaven | Gamarala and the temple | Two men and the bear | Incense and Candlewax | Fasting & Feasting | My Father & The Devil | Nari Bena (GM and the Jackal)

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