A short story
A Gift of Compassion

Living in a tin shack on the coast of Dehiwela, life for Sunil and Sriya was not that easy. Sunils’ livelihood was fishing. The fishermen living along the coast led a poor existence batting the seas to keep their home fires burning. Their only son Ajith, despite the hardships, studied well. He managed to pass his O/Levels and attended the Dehiwela Central College.

Weathering many a storm, Sunil was able to support his family, but unfortunately his motor cycle accident crippled him, and he remained jobless for months.

Sriya being a strong-willed woman never gave up hopes. She started supplying dinner packets to several boutiques around the corner.

Once Sunil recovered from his illness a kind gentlemen Mr. Siri the Manager of Dinu factory gave him a helping hand, to sell factory rejected garments on the pavement at Olcott Mawatha. His ready made garments were childrens clothes and banions bought on credit. Business for him was good.

One Monday afternoon Sriya was awakened by the loud noise of men and women screaming and running towards the main road. Can it be a Tsunami? She wondered. She was all alone, Sunil away with his business, and son at school.

As she stepped out of the door an excited Lucy Hamy living next door came panting and wailing making Sriya excited too. "What’s the matter Lucy Akke?’ she inquired "Haven’t you heard Nangi", she was still panting.

"Haven’t you heard what?" questioned Sriya.

"He are all finished all our stalls at Olcott Mawatha are pulled down. They are flattened" My husband had sent word that the vendors stalls have been smashed. In fact he was selling toys on the pavement.

Sriya thought for a moment "Lets go, we will go with son once he comes home" she suggested.

Meanwhile Ajith had heard the news and was rushing home.

"Amma, Amma, has Thaththa sent a message?" he asked. "No, what has happened son?" "No, the U.D.A. is clearing the pavements.

"Surely couldn’t they have informed us?" she retorted angrily. After all the loss cannot be replaced" she cried.

As they walked upto Galle Road Sunil was seen heading home in an Auto with a damaged box of clothes. "Thaththe, Thaththe" Ajith screamed. The Auto stopped.

"I suppose you heard about what happened? We are ruined" he sighed.

Sriya by nature was a strong willed woman. The garments sold were bought on credit, from the "Dinu Garment factory".

She immediately called the Manager". Sir you may have heard our plight. My husband was able to save only one box of childrens clothes", she informed.

Mr. Perera was an understanding Manager. He understood their sad plight. He personally came to meet them. "We will try to settle this matter Sunil. I heard the Minister saying on TV that alternative arrangements will be made soon".

This was a great relief to all hawkers who lived along the coast. Now most of them did not go fishing but were more or less vendors on the pavement.

Sriya had a fowl pen. She supplied eggs and with the sale of dinner packets she managed to see to their sons education and keep the home fires burning.

Ajith was a devout child. He visited the temple down I.B.C. Road often. He was a Sunday school teacher as well. One day the Chief Priest called Ajith and questioned about his plight.

"Sadhu I don’t think I could do my A/Levels. It was Vesak time. Since this Temple played a prominent role in the propagation of Buddhism. It had many Local and International Dayakas.

"Well we will think about it" he consoled him.

"Ajith, you are welcome here anytime. You can come straight here from school, have your meals every day at any time" It was really nice of Sadhu he thought.

Ajith spent most of his time at the Temple helping the others even making lanterns and putting up flags and decorating the temple for Vesak.

On Vesak day the Temple was fully crowded, with devotees. There were many Upasakas and Dayakas and one such philanthropist was Mr. Selvam. Though a Hindu, he took up the cause of the needy. He was a regular visitor to the temple.

Selvam owned a Grocery shop at Wellawatte. Seeing Ajith very alert and attending to several chores he inquired from Loku Sadhu who this boy was "Mudalali Mahaththayo, he is a helpless child, victim of a clearance campaign. His father has lost his job. The boy has given up schooling. If you can help him, that will be the greatest meritorious act for Vesak."

Selvam, thought for a while. "Sadhu I’ll speak to the boy" he said.

Ajith appeared before Reverend Mahinda and Selvam.

"He is clever. He is honest, and a Teacher here", said Sadhu introducing Ajith to Selvam Mudalali.

"Lamaya, would you like to work for me in my Grocery? Its hard work from 8.00 O’clock in the morning till 9.00 p.m.

Ajith thought for a moment, Now that father was jobless, mother striving hard. "Sir I will accept your offer. I’ll have to give up my schooling yet I’ll see to it some day", he said thoughtfully, with Reverend Mahinda’s blessings Ajith accepted this employment which was immediate.

"Son, my shop has groceries and also a vegetable stall. Its a mini market called "Kamal Grocery on Galle Rd" Ajith was overjoyed, he never inquired about hrs salary, who confidentially told Loku Hamuduruwo "I’ll pay him six thousand", Sadhu complemented him and said "this is the most charitable action" by him for Vesak.

Ajith’s parents were happy too Ajith worked hard attending to business. Being educated, Selvam realised he could be given responsibility attending to accounts as well. Sales jacked up briskly in a few months. Selvam realised how much the others had played him out. Ajith was happy too.

One day Mudalali called him aside and said "Ajith, My home is in India. I’ve got to see my parents. I’ll be away for six months. My daughter Rani who is married will run the business. Could you help her when we are away?"

"Yes Sir I will willingly help Madam" Rani also took to the boy who seemed to be honest.

When Selvam returned after six months things seemed to have improved and he wanted to open up another Mini Market at Maharagama.

"Ajith you be in charge of that place son" He patted him on the back, "You are a clever boy. I want you to be independent took and presented him with a cheque, for Rs. 50,000/- "O Lord", he sighed. "I can’t imagine all this" he thought. Tears welled into Ajith’s eyes. "You can invest it on any venture you want" he said.

Ajith thought of his fathers business. Meanwhile all Vendors were informed of a Hawkers Complex to be opened at Pamunuwa. This was the best chance for him. He invested this money on his fathers business.

The hawkers paradise at Pamunuwa was well patronised. The hundred stalls displaying a variety of wares drew crowds. Shoppers were happy too for there was nothing that was not available, prices were reasonable too. Their shop was "Ajith Enterprises" selling childrens wares. It had a day and night flourishing business, second hand factory rejects always found a brisk market.

After ten years Ajith turned out to be the most sort out after businessman.

Selvam was his chief witness at this wedding at Sirimathi Paya. His wife Sanduni had been his teenage Sweet heart. Two of them being energetic, honest, and pleasant in their ways drew shoppers. In the Hawkers Complex itself Ajith had several shops selling toys, groceries, shoes and trinkets.

Ajith was innovative too. He started a company exporting canned products to European markets. The ‘Olive pickle’ and spices found a ready market. They were called "Sir Lankan Delights". Locally his products found a ready sale.

Now that he had his parents living with him in a luxury apartment at Dehiwela.

After the death of his father Ajith ran his fathers business as well, leaving Sanduni his wife and his mother to manage. His two sons attended International Schools. He had a number of vans used for distribution.

As time went on with Chamber of Commerce had organised Awards on enterprising businessmen, one day Ajith got the surprise of his life, when he received a letter along’ with an invitation that he had been conferred the "Title of Entrepreneur of the year 2010" He couldn’t believe his eyes. The venue was the BMICH. Immediately he visited Mr. Selvam.

Seeing him relaxing on his arm chair reading the morning Newspaper Ajith came up to him waving his invitation.

"Sir, Sir this is the letter I received this morning. I... I.... he stammered excitedly. I have been honoured with the Title of "Entrepreneur of the year by the Chamber of Commerce. "What!" Mr. Selvam was aghast "Congratulations son, he hugged him most lovingly. "I am really proud of you" he said.

"Sir, please be present on that day. Your presence is more important to me" he said. Wiping his tears of joy.

In his shaky voice Mr. Selvam said "of course I will"

On the day of the Awards Ceremony a distinguished crowd was present at the BMICH Mr. Selvam helped by his two children sat in the front row. As Mr. Ajith Fernando’s name was announced all stood up to the anthem played by the band Amidst the round of applause from the crowd Ajith walked up the stage along with Mr. Selvam who was helped by his two children. As Ajith received his award some wondered who Mr. Selvam was clapping and cheering from the crowd continued as Ajith proudly was honoured.

Ajith next walked upto Mr. Selvam knelt at the feet and garlanded him. It was a touching and moving sight. Tears rolled down Mr. Selvams cheeks as he hugged him".

Ajith, in his speech thanking the Organisers and the crowd for gracing the occasion said with great pride.

"This is my benefactor Mr. Raju Selvam. He gave me a hand, and made me a man. Today is a memorable day for both of us. May he be blessed with good health and long life". Tears welled into Ajith eyes.

It was indeed a twist of fate for Ajith. Mr. Selvam in turn patting him on the shoulder said with pride son you are "fortunes child"

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