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.
|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!
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
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.
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" 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
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
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.
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
"Go and tell the Police" said Willie Mahattaya
brushing his shoulders in a sarcastic manner. He knew what had happened to the
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
" 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!"
||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
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.
this!" thought the Gamarala after the first gulp of arrack. I will have to do
something about Willie Mahattaya and the Police.
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
day he took a bus to Polonnaruwa Town and bought essential supplies including
another bottle of Arrack.
Polonnaruwa Town there was some talk of an impending terrorist attack and the
atmosphere was tense.........
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
May The Darkness Be
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.
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.
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.
goes!" thought the Gamarala recognising his handiwork and Seelawathie's air
raid siren-like scream....The Gamarala pretended that he hadn't heard
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.
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.
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.
obviously in a crossfire!
naked tarts screamed and jumped out of the brothel windows closely followed by
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
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
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.
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.
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
Realising that he was
going to survive he stopped invoking the Gods and reverted to the more earthy
type of Srilankan swearing.
of swearing mostly refers to the pedigree of the person being insulted or their
mothers, and in this case that of the police.
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
With the Police and Willie
Mahattaya gone peace returned to the village...
"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
written on the 4 th of February (Independence Day) 2002
© Gyan Fernando 2002