12 May 2014

The true location of Kala Wewa

It was Avurudu time.   In this supremely stay-home time for reasons that are not important I wanted to go away. Far away.  There was only one person I could think of who would, in this stay-home avurudu time, would consent to be travel companion. Wasantha Wijewardena. Self-proclaimed professional rastiyaadukaaraya, shaman of sorts, ace bull-shitter who could bullshit himself into believing that the practice is virtuous, wholesome and in concert with any and every religious doctrine. 

All I had to do was call. I called.  He said ‘come’.  When I got there he asked where I wanted to go.  I didn’t know. I came up, however, with a couple of options along the way to the petrol shed.
‘We could drop by your parents’ house in Parakaduwa and proceed to Ratnapura. We could go to the Saman Devale.  We could also go to Kala Wewa.’

He vetoed the first.  We took the Katunayake Highway, planning to go through Divulapitiya and Narammala to Kurunegala and from there to Kala Wewa via Galgamuwa, where I had friends I liked to visit. 

We talked.  We considered dropping Kala Wewa and Avukana in favor of Resvehera.  When we stopped 
for a cup of tea not long after passing Narammala it was about 2.00 pm.   Wasantha paid the compliment of proclaiming that I was the only one with whom such a trip was possible, i.e. a trip where destination was not important and where plans are so fluid that anything and everything could be dropped without complaint but with a smile.  Long before he came to that, he said, ‘Malinda Aiya, there are many wevas this side of Kala Wewa.’  I replied, ‘Yes, we can always bring Kala Wewa to wherever we are.’

We didn’t know exactly how that would be done.  We didn’t exactly plan to do it. We thought we’d first make it to Galgamuwa and try to locate Ananda Thilak Bandara.  Thilak is a batchmate from Peradeniya I hadn’t seen in a year and whose phone number didn’t work.  He is a teacher.  He can sing.  He has a temper.  He can be stubborn in the will-not-forgive-or-forget vein.  He was gentle too.  He never quarreled with me.

I vaguely remembered where he lived, about a mile from Galgamuwa Town on the road to Ehetuwewa.  Ehetuwewa is about 9km from Galgamuwa. Thilak’s village is Madadombe and lies about 2km off if you turn right at Gallewa.  His parents had purchased a house within the town limits about ten years before. 

We got to Galgamuwa.  The inevitable happened. I couldn’t locate the house.  We laughed.  I proposed that we go to Madadombe where Upali, Thilak’s brother, now occupied the parental house.  Upali was an iskole mahattaya.  He was fond of drink.  He was bound to be home since it was avurudu. 

With a bit of effort which, under sensible circumstances we ought to have expended before we took off, we managed to find Thilak’s new phone number.  He said he was in Kurunegala, with some friends.  I teased him.  I said that we had come all the way to see him and that he had better haul himself to Galgamuwa.  He made his excuses.  He was excused. We went to Madadombe.

The old house was gone.  Upali had built a new house.  The old fence was gone.  In its place there was an ali-veta, an electric fence to keep wild elephants away.  Indeed every household had an ali-veta.  Things had changed for way back in the eighties and nineties the elephants didn’t step into this village in numbers and at frequency warranting such precautions. 

Upali was in high spirits, even though his wife and two sons had taken off in a huff a few hours before because even on this avurudu day he couldn’t resist a drink.  There was kiribath and polos.  He offered. We consumed with relish. 

I recollected the many visits.  Bathing in the Maha Weva and other wevas in the area.  Cycling with friends to Divulgane and even to Katnoruwa.  Forays into chenas where afternoons were spent roasting and consuming an unbelievable quantity of corn.  Visiting temples we came across.  Chatting with the loku hamuduruwo. 

‘Let’s bathe,’ Upali said.

We did.  The dimensions of ‘Maha Wewa’ had not contracted. Memory did not fail. 

Then Thilak called.  A friend would give him a lift to Ambogama.  He wanted to know if we could pick him up.  We could. 

Upali’s spirits were lifted higher as we walked back.  Friends came by in a three-wheeler.  They had what he wanted, and he had what he needed.  Upali’s family had returned by the time we got back.  There was tea. There was kevili. We partook. 

It was dark when we set off to pick up Thilak.  Upali wanted to treat his older brother to a drink.  On that Aluth  Avurudu day which also happened to be Bak Poya, he managed to secure a bottle. Neither Wasantha nor I were interested. We didn’t try to stop Upali either. 

‘When Bandara Aiya comes, I will get to aside,’ Upali said what he need not have.  I knew the respect and the fear. 

Upali had downed one third the contents by the time we picked up Thilak.  By the time we reached Gallewa, he was fast asleep.  His wife called ‘There’s a herd of elephants at the gate so don’t come now.’  Thilak directed me to a relation’s house.  More tea.  More conversation about elephants and school days in Ehetuwewa.  Half an hour later, we got a ‘safe’ call and we went. 

Dinner.  Conversation.  Late into the night.  We left around 4.00 am the following morning, taking the kalakaruwa or artist, Ananda Thilak Bandara, with us.  The Maha Wewa looked lovely in the moonlight.  Time had passed, yes, but neither Thilak nor I were burdened or tripped by nostalgia.    

The Kala Wewa had indeed accepted our invitation.  It was a new year as aluth as they come. 



Venarable Dammapala said...

well written.

Anonymous said...

Awesome. Need a vacation like this :)