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Tracing my roots

My paternal grandmother was an inveterate traveler. She must have got her genes from Ibn Batuta or Marco Polo - or both. Travel to her was a religion and she took her sunshine wherever she went and thereby was never thought of in Joseph Prescott’s terse "the trouble with travelers is that they take themselves along."

Amongst the heap of memories are the many visits we made to her ancestral home, the Kadigawa walauwa in remote Kadigawa, which was then aspiring to be a hamlet. I still nurse memories of the wattle and daub structure, posing as the exclusive barber’s saloon, but indigent nevertheless, wherein I would be given a hair cut gratis because I was ‘of the walauwa’.

So I set off with my friend, Mahinda Rajakaruna, who could trace his ancestry to the Monnemkulame and Kumbiyangoda walauwas, the son of Kapuru Bandara Rajakaruna, but as we were given erratic directions on the way by ‘village idiots’ we travelled past Kochchikade, Chilaw, Talgahapitiya, Pallama, Nikaweratiya, Padeniya and Kobeigane. It was truly a wata rauma but enjoyabale all the same with the sun not in an oppressive and punishing mood and the roads relatively free of vehicular traffic.

There was also the plus factor of going past historic Deduru Oya of which fable weaves the tale involving Kuveni. She had got wind of evil deeds afoot by her uncles who wanted to avenge the indignity cast upon the family when Vijaya jilted the Royal Queen. Her son and daughter were to perish. And so, Kuveni bade her two children go incognito up the river and they tended cattle until the feeble son died and was cremated in Aluvihare. De daru Oya: the river of two children. Thus did the Dedaru Oya acquire its name.

By and by we arrived in Kadigawa to see the ancestral walauwa wherein I had seen as a child a variety of tree frogs on the walls and a crocodile in the wewa which was part of the walauwa property.

Our search for threads of history was a dismal failure when we learned from the surviving Tikiri Menike Kumari who would oft lilt into verse that in the absence of the owners or any knowledge of their whereabouts the walauwa had been demolished, the wewa filled with soil and the 170 acres sold in three lots of 100, 50 and 20 acres; the smallest having been bought by Tikiri Menike Kumari.

My great grandfather, twice removed, had been the Adigar of Nikaweratiya and had resided in his Kadigawa walauwa. His son had been an incorrigible boy and when Lord Howe visited the walauwa and was told about the aimless child, Howe had offered to take the boy under his wing, take him to India and make a man of him.

The young Kadigawa who was later to be known as Howe Bandara Kadigawa soon fell in love with an Anglo-Indian beauty but contracted small pox which scarred his face ending any possible nuptial arrangements. The disillusioned young Howe Bandara Kadigawa would not dare return to his father’s abode and chose the safer route to his maternal parent’s home in Amunugama off Matale. There he married the eldest of the nine Amunugama children.

My grandmother’s brother, Senerath Kadigawa, married from the same clan, the eloquent, statesque and accomplished Kumari Amunugama but the property went to waste when the surviving owners neglected it through ignorance that they had a patch of land in the Wanni. We had come full circle only nostalgia remains.

Sharm de Alwis, 82/1, Kandy Road, Kiribathgoda

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