ANURADHAPURA: I ventured out to Medawachchiya, Anuradhapura following the elephant’s footprints to a home. Others would call it a wattle and daub but I would recognise it as a home. I called out to see if anyone was there but there was no sign of life. I then pulled down the kadulla (planks of wood) which would be called a gate in the modern world and trespassed into the home.
There was a carpet made of kohuu (coir) with the words Welcoome (welcome) written on it. Even though it had a spelling error it was very touching. I proceeded to the backyard where I saw children playing carrom. They looked up at me as I smiled at them and ran off toppling the board to tell their Kiri amma (grandmother) that there was a visitor.
Aney nona!!! (Oh Lady)
Enna enna!!! (Come, come)
There was a wooden chair and a bed made out of Gunny sacks which is called a Booru Anda (Donkey bed).
Kiri amma sat beside me on the booru anda and began telling me stories of how her next door neighbour was brutally killed by a wild elephant and how after 6 p.m. all villagers rush home and practise complete silence to avoid disturbing the elephants and attracting their attention.
The conversation came to a standstill as about 20 villagers flurried towards us. Obviously like in Colombo, news travels fast!
They were all standing around whispering their perceptions about me.
Kiri amma invited them. A few accepted whilst the others were involved making tea for themselves, platting each others hair, swinging and playing the flute. They all seemed so free. They really were living in harmony yet in their neighbour’s home.
They offered me inguru tea (ginger tea) with hakuru (jaggery) in a coconut shell. It was lovely!
Life should be like this and really speaking it can be like this!
Be good to your neighbours, give goodness and receive goodness.
A little boy of about eight asked for my handbag and pulled out a perfume bottle which intrigued him.
He looked at me for a sign of approval. By then I had fallen in love with these people. I was ready to give them anything or do anything that they wished. He opened the bottle and sprayed perfume on him and said Hmmm….suandai (smells good) and ran around the house spraying perfume around. After finishing the whole perfume bottle he landed at my feet and said suandai.! Akka apey gamata suanda genava (It smells good! Sister you brought fragrance to our village).
Everyone smiled, I placed him on my lap and wished that the happiness I saw him experience at that moment never leaves him.
Darkness was approaching the village and it was time for me to say goodbye to these wonderful human beings whom I thanked profusely for teaching me about human values, something that each of us should focus on securing.
I hugged Kiri Amma and said goodbye to all the villagers. It was one of the hardest moments that had come across in my life.
As I placed the kadulla back (wooden planks) I looked back one more time at their smiles.
A villager shouted out pravesamien gihin enna nona (Go carefully and come back lady).
I responded not with words but with a smile, being unable to explain my anxiety about the possibilities of not meeting them again while worrying within me about leaving a part of my family behind.