Once upon a time there was a Gamarala
(village elder) who never went to the temple.
|Technical details: This is another classic Srilankan folk
story. We recently came across a new Sinhala version of the story in a pulp
book called "Sabé Gamarala" (The Real Gamarala) written by some prat
calling himself Jayatissa Boralugoda (ISBN 955-652-097-X), who attempts to
sanitise and politically correct the Gamarala stories with pathetic
Any Srilankan who remembers the original story will agree that the
new version is totally sanitised, a travesty and has very little resemblance to
the original which appeared in the book "Ran Kekira Saha Thavath Katha" in the
The MadPage version is closer to the original. In fact the original
was so hilarious that the Mad Page didn't really have to jazz it up as
As usual memories were jogged by our MadSister Babs..
He had better things to do such as drinking
arrack. This activity of course required a lot of advanced planning since
liquor is not sold on Poya (full moon) days and the moon of course follows the
Mrs Gamarala never
touched alcohol like most Srilankan women do and went to the temple every poya
day clad in spotless white to observe Sil.
She of course went on and on at the Gamarala, as
women do, about his drinking habits and his non-observance of the Poya
After all one of the
Buddhist precepts is "Thou shall abstain from alcohol" (Sura meraya
majjapama dhattana veramani sicca padang samadiyami) which ish not eashy to
shay when drunk.
One day the Gamarala
said to himself " Bugger this! I can't stand this anymore! I am going to the
temple just to keep the little woman quiet." Anything for a quiet wife!
The Gamarala's announcement was
greeted with considerable hilarity by his dozen or so assorted children ("Menna
bolé Appachchi Pansal yanda hadanawa!"). He ignored them.
Mrs Gamarala took this business very seriously
of course. Women are like that. They are fussy, lack a sense of humour but are
On the appointed day she first
hid the bottle of arrack behind the wangediya (mortar) and got the Gamarala to
get into a white sarong. The Gamarala preferred his dirty old multi-coloured
striped sarong but decided to grin and bear it.
Because of the children Mrs Gamarala could not
"What do I do when I
get to the temple?" demanded the Gamarala slightly irritably.
"Simple!" said Mrs Gamarala. "Just repeat what
the priest says!"
"Repeat everything! " she
Gloom and Doom and Dadoriya
The Gamarala set off with a sense of foreboding.
He didn't like this at all. He felt uncomfortable in the starchy white sarong.
It was like wearing paper. The old sarong was much more comfortable. One could
scratch one's nether regions when wearing the old sarong. This one was scratchy
but you couldn't scratch yourself. Scratching oneself is a Sri Lankan past
The sun was up and shining but
this didn't particularly cheer up the Gamarala. The sun always shines in Sri
Lanka and therefore there is no reason why people should cheer up at the sight
of the sun.
Very soon he ran into trouble in the form of
"Dadoriya", a rather vicious dog belonging to his neighbour.
Relations were slightly strained between the
Gamarala and Dadoriya.
Dadoriya started barking, "Bow Bow" in Sinhalese. (Dadoriya could only speak
Sinhala and could only go Bow Bow whereas English educated dogs go Bow Wow or
Arf! Arf! American dogs bark in a broad Brooklyn accent like Spike in the Tom
and Jerry cartoons.)
thought that this would be a good opportunity to practice observing Sil. Repeat
everything his wife had told him. The Gamarala looked at Dadoriya squarely in
the eye and went "Bow Bow" with predictable results.
"Bow Bow" said Dadoriya.
"Bow Bow" said the Gamarala.
|| This went on for a while and then without warning
Dadoriya changed tack, bared his yellow fangs, let out a low growl and went for
The main point of
contact between Dadoriya's fangs and the Gamarala was the seat of the pants
except the Gamarala was not wearing any. He was only wearing a thin sarong.
The Gamarala ran in the general
direction of the temple muttering Srilankan swear words, which we decline to
translate, as this is a family page.
The priest at the temple was
surprised to see the Gamarala. With a twinkle in his eyes he decided to tease
the Gamarala a bit and greeted the Gamarala patronisingly and pompously but in
the traditional Srilankan fashion "Kohomada Gamarala?" (Gamarala, How
thought the Gamarala. That's what the wife said. So the Gamarala looked at the
priest squarely in the eye, thought, "Well he can't bite me, can he?" and, with
a patronising and pompous smile said "Kohomada Gamarala?"
priest was a little bit taken aback and said "No!No!No!No! I said
The Gamarala said
"No!No!No!No! I said Kohomada Gamarala"
"I heard you the first time!" said the
priest rather sharply.
you the first time!" said the Gamarala equally sharply.
"There is no need to shout" shouted the
"There is no need to shout" shouted the
"Are you drunk?"
"Are you drunk?"
Voices were raised and very soon other members
of the congregation had gathered around the temple compound to observe this
amazing exchange of views. Observing that he had an audience and aware that he
was having the micky taken out of him by this uneducated Gamarala the priest
drew himself up to his full height (5ft 8 inches) turned to them and solemnly
and majestically said,
(buruwa) is drunk".
The Gamarala drew
himself up to his full height (5ft 10 inches) turned to the audience and
equally solemnly and majestically said
"This buruwa is drunk".
Gamarala had a 2 inch advantage.
There was a gasp of astonishment
from the audience to hear the priest being referred to in this manner and with
a 2 inch disadvantage.
An old woman
by the name of Kalapugamage Don Nimal Hamy, with recent cataract
operations on her eyes and consequently not yet used to her thick spectacles,
did not know what best to do under these unusual circumstances and said
"Sadu! Sadu! Sadu!" which is of course the Buddhist equivalent of
When he heard this, the Gamarala thought I must have been doing all
right. That's why the woman said "Sadu Sadu" The wife was right! Just repeat
Coincidentally, there was
a dramatic drum roll. Drums are part of the temple traditions.
The Gamarala smiled pleased that this Sil
business was fun and easier than he had imagined.
sight of the Gamarala grinning like a half-wit so incensed the priest that he
almost forgot his own teachings. He nearly burst a cerebral blood vessel.
Turning to the gathering the priest pointed to the Gamarala and said
"Menna Bola Pissek!" ("This guy is a
Gamarala: "Menna Bola
Priest: "Menna Bola Horek!"
("This guy is a cutthroat")
"Menna Bola Horek!"
"Mé Yaka Geri Kunak!" (This devil is a rotting carcass of a
Gamarala: "Mé yaka Geri
Priest: " Mé Yaka
Mé Yaka ***$%&!1@#!"
went on for a while. Srlankans have a colourful vocabulary and many insults
were exchanged but we decline to repeat them.
Fun and Games
The Gamarala thought this was fun although
slightly shocked by the language (he was only repeating everything) and a
little bit taken aback to realise that this is what Mrs Gamarala was up to on
Poya days. Must have a serious talk with that woman when I get back home
thought the Gamarala.
|At this stage the proceedings were interrupted by the sudden
appearance of the dog Dadoriya.
Seeing his old adversary the Gamarala decided to run to the other
side of the temple compound.
so-called "tactical withdrawal" on the part of the Gamarala convinced everyone
that he must be clearly at fault and clearly guilty of something. Why else did
he panic like that?
So they set upon
him with the highly excited Dadoriya leading the attack.
A battered Gamarala made his way
home. He who fights and runs lives to fight another day. His sarong was torn.
His bum was beginning to hurt from the initial attack of Dadoriya and his left
eye was rapidly becoming a "shiner". He had had to creep through a barbed wire
fence to get away from the temple mob. Not a very pleasant experience
especially when in a hurry.
The bloody kids went about
with barely suppressed mirth when they heard this account.
They started a new game of repeating everything
the other said.
One of the kids
started barking like Dadoriya.
"Bugger this," thought the Gamarala
"I never knew religion could be so painful"
His only consolation was that he had given as
good as he got in the temple fray.
was particularly pleased with his left hook which KOed the obnoxious
holier-than-thou Ratnayake Mudiyanselagé (Aiyo!) Sirisena who was always
hanging around the temple just to impress everyone.
In his excitement Dadoriya of
course had forgotten his remit i.e. of attacking the Gamarala exclusively, had
abandoned the original battle plan, entered freely into the spirit of things
and had bitten anyone who got in his way.
The enduring memory of Dadoriya hanging by his
fangs on to the bum of one of the temple elders brought a smile to the
Mrs Gamarala did her best not to laugh. This was
rather difficult as she was a naturally giggly sort of woman, like most
Srilankan women are, and always held her right hand across her face when she
giggled. Most importantly she was a good woman.
She went into the kitchen and got the bottle of
arrack out from behind the Wangediya where she had hidden it, got a clean glass
and placed them before the Gamarala.
Ahh! Good woman! Thought the Gamarala
Moral: Arrack is safer than religion and less
First written on the 8th of
© Gyan Fernando