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 Post subject: Exploits of a grandfather
 Post Posted: Sat Jun 24, 2006 11:00 pm 
Exploits of a grandfather

by Vijaya Jayasuriya
@ The Island / 24 June 2006

My paternal grandfather had been the village headman of a little hamlet called Heenatiya, off the coastal town of Balapitiya. His house was a grand old manor-type affair located at the top of a hill, on a sprawling two-acre coconut land beside the famous "Madu ganga". This house was later handed down to one of my uncles, the youngest, while my father inherited the land of about one acre bordering the river on two sides.

It is said that my grandpa died when I was just three months old, and he had only once come and adoringly held me in his arms saying: "My little son, will I be able to live until you stand up and walk?" Strangely enough he had succumbed to a heart failure just three months later and so I haven't even been able to see him even in a photograph.

My grandfather had been a quite interesting character, who is said to have been trying hard to reform a vice-ridden area full of cattle-thieves, burglars etc., all of whom unlike today's contract killers, did these just for mere existence. So taking pity on such a case when he tried to vindicate an innocent man alleged to have killed his woman, whereas it had been done by another, the court dismissed him from his office together with a thundering warning delivered by the judge, who would be a white man who knew no Sinhala and so went by what the police said.

My grandpa had very graciously accepted the ruling bowing very low without a word in exonerating himself and is said to have come back home announcing along the way that he was relieved of "the burden" of being the headman, and also telling farmers who worked on his paddy lands that he too would join them in work from that day onwards. Truely enough, it was recalled by my mother many times later that he gaily joined the gang from the following day in filling the fields donning the loin cloth and for ever shedding the headman's prestigious black coat!

My grandpa used to be, according to my mother, an extremely religious man who never failed to get down to his house the then chief monk of the area Rev. Walagedara Somaloka Tissa at Randombe Raja Maha Viharaya and offer him "dana" every month. It was also said that in these monthly meetings, and also sometimes on visits to the temple, he used to discuss matters of Dhamma with this great monk. However one fine day this great "upasaka" who was undoubtedly observing the five precepts including " I refrain from killing" had happened, in a paroxysm of anger, to shoot down a cow that had entered one of his lush paddy fields and was eating up the young plants. Now overwhelmed by immediate remorse for the great sin and full of guilt feelings he had refrained from visiting the temple for two whole months without being able to face the friendly monk. The thero had felt the absence untoward and wondering what became of his "upasaka" had one day come to his house hoping to see him.

After treating the priest with "gilanpasa" grandpa had frankly confessed to the sinful act he had committed and enquired about a way of redemption. The priest had smiled and said that avoiding the company of the Sangha would not do any good and, according to the doctrine of "Kamma" the retribution would inevitably follow if one committed a sin. However, he had also said, a deep sense of repentance for the sin would be the only way to follow so that such acts would not be repeated. It is after this meeting that my grandpa had again resumed his usual practice of visiting the temple.

He is also said to be a very strict disciplinarian who never condescended to brook any aberratious from the norms of accepted behaviour by any of his close relatives, least of all from his own progeny. This however did not turn out as he may have anticipated when they grew into potent adulthood though they may have conformed to the rules as teenagers. One of my uncles found his partner from a certain family of disrepute and grandpa strongly resisted this, saying that if he went ahead with the idea he would be thrown out of the family as an outcast.

This, it is said, actually happened and my uncle did marry the person of his choice and got his deserts for it. Grandpa was so furious over his cheek to disregard advice that on the very day of the function he arranged a "Dansela"—a feast for all and sundry held in one of his wayside houses and treated everyone who went that way saying. "One of my sons has passed away and so I'm giving this ‘Maladana’ (offering of food at a funeral.)". He is said to have stayed in that place from morning till evening on that day offering victuals to wayfarers and did not participate in the marriage ceremony. Even after the ceremony he never entertained the couple in his home, nor did they dare come to face him fearing worse consequences.

My father had had to suffer a worse punishment for another type of foible at the hands of his father – this dismissed the village headman. My father had got into the habit of regularly frequenting a certain spot in one of our adjoining villages called Berathuduwa, again bordering the "Madu ganga". This had been a famous toddy tavern hidden in the thicket of "Kadolana" by the river.

A fine quiet place for a cool sip of coconut toddy which was there even when we were in our youth, my father's very regularity in visiting this haunt made him the target of grandpa's wrath.

My mother had warned him "Father has got to know of your visit there, so be careful", but my father had shrugged it off saying.

"Father knows that the spot is owned by a respectable man in that village and he will not bother about my going there."

Quite contrary to my father's optimism things went wrong when one fine day he visited the place, had a bellyful of toddy and was emerging from the "Kadolana" when suddenly grandpa appeared from nowhere and jumped onto his path armed with a thick kitul club!

"No, no, Policiye mahaththeya, please don't do that..." pleaded the owner of the tavern, yet to no avail, and grandpa bashed my father on his legs with the club saying: "Kadanava thoge andu bebadukame thavath noennama" (I'll break your legs not to go on debauchery here after).

Then he had turned to the "respectable" tavern-keeper and said: "Don’t utter a word... you wouldn't sell toddy if you were a good man..."

My father had had to suffer for six whole months taking treatment for a very bad fracture to his right shin bone, which according to my mother, stopped only two weeks of his drinking. He had later on arranged with a friend to get him down "half a bottle"of arrack every day, which did not reek of liquor as badly as the local stuff! So in that way he managed to save his other leg from another a whit with remorse according to my mother, but to enjoy his "handy work" which only he believed corrected my father!

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