Friday, 27 May 2011
The 'pulichcher meen' lunch was a scenario ..months before Wapa left for London.I had to take you BACK..so that you can put things into perspective..Akka's strange behaviour, The telegram... the name SHEWAK and events that followed.
Lunch for Wapa's friends...at 'PAKISTAN HOUSE'
It was a magic afternoon...the gentle sea breeze...the sun not hot, but warm...and looking out the front of our house...about fifty metres away was the old dutch lighthouse across the rampart slope that starts from the road. The sea was literally a 'stone's throw away' . You fling a stone over the rampart..on rampart street....and it drops into the shallow waters (about two to three feet in height for more than hundred yards) ... of the Indian Ocean
Wapa walked into the corridor of our house...his face glowing with satisfaction and told Umma that his friends guzzled the food like cavemen, they really licked the dishes. Umma was beaming and asked if there was enough for all. Oh yes, yes..Wapa replied.
They were about to leave ..and wanted to thank Umma for her delectable lunch..They all nodded at Umma..with one hand on their chest. They knew that offering to shake hands with women.. is not the accepted practice among muslims of Galle...
Then , the last guest about to leave..gave Umma a ribbon wrapped parcel ...and Wapa said that shewak would like Umma to accept a small token for taking the trouble for as " Shewak stated..this magnificent lunch.". Umma holding the saree over her head and under her chin, nodded and shyly said' thank you '
After they had left..we..the children... couldn't wait to see what was in the parcel. 'Now, now, have some patience till we get this opened' said Umma. I can never forget the beautiful gold ,silver and blue box with compartments...and you lift the top and there is another tray with compartments.
On the top of the box was stylishly printed.......SUCHARD Swiss chocolates. And we thrilled to the gorgeous wrapping of each chocolate and we ate the chocolates very slowly. It was "gamayata magic" for us. So, thats why Swiss Chocolates are so famous !
When Wapa came back home that evening he mentioned that Shewakram and he planned to go to London in the near future...and that there was a business plan...By the way, he said that Shewak bought this chocolate from EPHRAUMS..opposite the Tennis Club . Ephraums was a foreign owned establishment.. the upmarket shop for the wealthy. Yeah, many Galle Fort dwellers had class...and money ! And the average Galle resident never walked walked into this shop because it looked too posh!
I cannot remember how Umma got about contacting Shewak..but I remember going to the Post Office with Umma . She spoke to someone using the Post Office red telephone. I did not know if the person she telephoned was Shewak..it appeared so...and I had no idea if the person receiving Umma's call was in Ceylon or Overseas.
I was always tailing Umma.... Wherever she went, I urged her to take me along with her. I remember that they had to 'fool' me away into the house..whenever the Rickshaw arrived to take Umma to Thalapitiya. Yeah, I was like her shadow.
Back in our house, Umma was distressed...and got Ava (my aunt, father's sister) to come into our house. Ava lived in the house next to our 'Pakistan House'. Ava and Umma were always together.
Ava was rubbing her tears from her eyes..and comforted Umma saying everything will turn out okay... but even as a small boy, I sensed great foreboding...
Umma was speaking ( we spoke tamil..or rather shonavam which is a hodge-podge of colloquial tamil, some arabic terms, even Sinhalese and English ) to Ava and explaining this 'sickness' that Wapa has. Later on, it was discussed that he had CHOLERA..because he was wasting away and could not retain any food or even liquid ..and he was in an isolated ward in a hospital in London.
Later on, they confirmed it was NOT CHOLERA..but could not diagnose the condition..and the doctors in London could not put a name to Wapa's illness.
THEN.... then Akka walks into the room. She tells Umma and Ava..." Don't try to hide things from me....Nona ! I know everything. Umma replied.."Akka, we are not trying to hide anything from you and we meant to tell you soon enough.
Akka said " Nona, aender thaller shuththuzzui' ( my head is turning, I am going to rest awhile on my mat........Akka did not wake up till evening...From about 11 am in the morning till about 6pm in the evening...
You would not believe...what followed
continued in the next blog.