|The Record for Posterity
Cecil V. Wikramanayake
Now, the Nth battalion of the famed Sinha Regiment was noted for the vigour of its language. And in that battalion was Private Sinha Tuwakkukodi, who held a reputation for pure, unadulterated Billingsgate which was the envy of all his comrades or Sahodarayas.
Not only had he a more varied stock of expletives than anyone else, but he seemed to possess a unique gift for welding them into new and wonderful combinations to meet each fresh situation. Moreover, he had an insistent manner of delivering them which alone was sufficient to place him in a class by himself.
To show you the extent of his fame, it is only necessary to mention that his commanding officer a bit of a poetaster - composed an ode to Sinha Tuwakkukodi, which was even published in the Trench Gazette of the Nth division.
Two verses, as far as I can remember, went something like this (the translation from the Sinhala is mine).
As Private Sinha used to say
He couldnt stand the War;
He cursed about it every day
And every night he swore.
And, while a sense of discipline
Carried him on through thick and thin
The mud, the bullets and the din
Annoyed him more and more.
The words with which we others cursed
Seemed mild and harmless quips
Compared to those remarks that burst
From Private Sinhas lips.
Havent you ever heard about
The Tiger Guard at "X" redoubt
How Sinhas language laid them out
Before we came to grips?
Anyhow, after bespattering the air of Velvettiturai and Vadamaarachchi with a barrage of anathemas for the best part of the year, Private Sinha did something creditable in the push to Jaffna Fort and retired to a hospital in Anuradhapura whence he emerged a few months later with a slight limp, an honourable discharge certificate and a piece of coloured ribbon on his chest.
Having expressed his considered opinion of hospital life, he returned to his native place, Colombo.
His first shock was when he was met at the Fort Railway Station by the Navy Band and was conducted up the road in a Perahera to the Town Hall to the accompaniment of martial and patriotic strains.
His second shock was when he was confronted, on the steps of the Town Hall, by the Mayor and an official gathering of leading citizens with an unofficial background of the led ones, and found himself the subject of speeches of adulation and welcome.
Private Sinha was too dumbfounded to grasp all that was said, but he recovered his senses in time to hear the Mayor assuring his audience that it gave him great pleasure, indeed he might go so far as to say the very greatest pleasure, to welcome on behalf of Colombo, one who had upheld with such distinction and bravery the reputation and honour of the community.
And that although he did not wish to keep them longer, he must just add that he was going to ask Private Sinha then and there, while the remembrance of his terrible hardships was still fresh in his mind, to impart them on a brand new tape recorder so that the archives of Sri Lanka might not lack direct evidence of the experiences of her bravest citizen and so that future generations might know something of the noble thoughts that surged in so gallant a breast in time of danger and the fine and honourable words with which those thoughts were uttered.
The Mayors peroration annoyed Sinha. The cheers that followed it annoyed him still more the subsequent shower of congratulations and the vigorous slaps on the back threatened to move him to reply in a speech which might have been unintelligible to the ladies present.
Fortunately, the danger was averted. Before he could go into action, a select committee of two, specially selected for this purpose, had seized him by the arms and was conducting him up the steps of the Town Hall.
The rapidity and the unexpected nature of the movement threw Sinha out of gear and he was forced to adopt an attitude of sullen silence during the progress of the little party through a passage leading into a small room.
This room was furnished only with a table and a chair. On the table stood a magnificent tape-recorder. Into the latter, the committee deposited ex-Private Sinha Tuwakkukodi and explained to him that the was desired to sit there and in his own words recount the experiences at the front in Jaffna.
That becoming modesty, they added, which hitherto had sealed his lips, should now be laid aside. Posterity must not be denied the edification of listening to the heros story of his share in the Eelam War.
The tape recorder was then turned on, giving out a slight grating sound which set Sinhas teeth on edge.
He was about to address a few remarks to the committee when they tactfully withdrew, leaving him alone with the instrument.
For a few seconds he was silent. The machine rasped unchallenged through about a dozen revolutions. Then Sinha took a deep breath and, leaning forward, thrust his head closer to the rasping recorder....
The Mayor has sampled the recording. The session was a secret one, but the populace had been given to understand that the cassette has been sealed and put away for the use of posterity only!
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