11 September 2014

Some days are not made for writing

There are days when nothing gets written.  Not for lack of subject or absence of urge.  Circumstances. Like today, Monday the 27th of September, 2010.  I sat down to write but was not allowed to. 

I began around 11.00 am after attending to some urgent matter at the Ministry of Education.  A man who wanted to show me some poetry he had written, in Sinhala and in English, ‘dropped in’.  He had come from far away.  Sirisena Waduge had worked at the Port. Sixty four years old. Retired.  He had a story. Sorry, ‘stories’. Plural. 

He spoke about all the poems he has ever written, the how and why.  All the people he had shared them with. The things they had said.  The things they had written (which he believed were actually written for him and not a general newspaper readership).  He told me he wanted to write to the ‘Readers’ Digest’. Wanted to know how to go about it.  He spoke about his difficulties.  Misfortunes.  Missed opportunities.

It was not a sob-story. He was not asking for help.  Just an hour or two.  Less, actually, as it turned out to be.  He had brought a bag full of paper cuttings.  Photographs.  And some mung-kavun in an empty carton that had once contained 400g of milk powder, offered with the insistent claim ‘me mage priyathama kaamak’ (one of my favourite foods). 

I had to take his leave at 12.30 to pick up my little girl from school. Rushed back to where I was, hoping to write.  There was another visitor.  Prasanna Jayakody. He had a story.

‘The poem you wrote for my father…I read it but I want you to explain it to me.’  I read it again and explained in Sinhala what I was trying to say.  He was happy.  He started speaking.  Here’s a rough translation.

‘A few days ago I started reading his last novel.  I had not read it before.  It has everything. He’s written about everyone.  It is a biography.  I stopped reading after a while.  He’s no more.  There are things that I want to ask him, things I need to clarify.  I can’t do this now.’

I told him that his father was a yakha, i.e. of the Yaksha clan.  ‘This country belongs to yakku, they built this civilization, they protect it and if this civilization is to survive it will be largely thanks to them.  It is because there are people like your father.  People with amazing capacities.’

He spoke about the difficult times.  He told me that his father had broken both legs in an accident and once broken his arm as well. Accidents. He was arrested in 1971, he said. 

‘Arrested?’ I asked.  ‘Was he involved with the JVP?’  

‘Yes he was.  I remember the day the Police came to take him away.  He was on top of a tree, trying to pluck a Jak fruit.  He asked the Police whether it was to obtain a statement from him or something else.  He was smiling from the corner of his mouth.  My mother was upset, but I remember him brushing her away, saying something to us (my older brother and I), changing into a shirt and trousers and getting into the vehicle.  He was in jail for a year and a half.’

I listened.

‘No one helped us. We were labeled “Cheguverakaarayo (followers of Che Guevara)”.  We couldn’t even draw a bucket of water from a neighbour’s well.  We found a lot of blue material which were probably meant for uniforms.  There was a time when all the bedsheets, curtains, shirts, shorts and indeed everything was blue in colour.  That’s a revolutionary denouement we can laugh at now.  It was serious stuff for us at the time.’

Prasanna can’t read his father’s last book. Not yet. That’s natural, I suppose.  That’s because he’s a son who is mourning the recent death of a father, Jayasena Jayakody.  I haven’t see the book, but I think I would not find it easy to read it either.  That’s because there are fathers who are fathers to those they didn’t father but nevertheless nurtured. 

There are days that things don’t get written on time.  Like today.  It’s 1.51 pm now and I am not sure if this will get to the editor on time.  That’s ok.  Some days are like that.  Made for those ‘other things’ that make ‘these things’.  Sirisena Waduge days. Days when someone like Prasanna walks in, wanting me to translate a few thoughts from Sinhala to English and ends up making me think about ancestor worship. Days made of mung-kavum and conversation. Laptop-defying days.  That’s because Waduge is Waduge, Prasanna is Prasanna and Jayasena Jayakody is a father who will take a lot to forget.  Here’s how I remembered him.  Two months ago:

All the fathers 
the father-claimants 
and other 
had to be spawned themselves,
there was another father,
one of many, yes,
but one who never raised hand 
never claimed paternity,
but nurtured nevertheless
the sons and daughters 
who would make the stand
and win back the earth.

Some days are not made for writing. Like today. There’s a ghost-writer at work here.  I am convinced he belongs to the Yaksha clan. I bow my head in veneration.

*First published in the Daily News, September 29, 2010


h. said...

love how you used to write an article per day. each one can compete to be your best writing.

Angelo De Silva said...

A day in the life of a story teller .awsome ..

Angelo De Silva said...

A day in the life of a story teller .awsome ..

Anonymous said...