The MismatchJune 8, 2012, 7:16 pm
By Vijaya Jayasuriya
‘I shan’t give even a bitch in my house to that family!’ the walauwe hamu grumbled loudly. ‘Who are they after all damned beggars!’
He was reacting angrily to his only daughter’s folly of wishing to get hitched up with a young man whose family has been their tenants in a little house that belonged to the Walauwa in their vast coconut land.
Serving in the Kandyan region after getting a teaching appointment Nipuni had turned out to be bold enough to write a letter to her mother saying that she had plans of marrying this boy who was working as a clerk in the Matale area.
‘I had a little suspicion myself about this from their school days…’ hamu went on deliberating on it.
He could visualize how one day Nipuni handed this boy a bay of sweets over the fence and over-whelmed with rage he blared out a gust of anger at them.
No longer did anyone in the family ever see them together until this sudden provocative letter from their only child who is the heiress to the ample property of the family.
‘Just wait, she will never get an inch of my property… nor even a red cent from me if she marries that fellow…’ hamu went on in utter exasperation.
Saman and Nipuni were in the same class at school where the boys and girls were clearly divided into two factions depending on their social status. Those from the well-to-do families openly treated with contempt the ones from poor families and never cared even to look at them.
‘Just see that boy’s shirt… black patches under armpits…’ Sarada uttered in derision pointing at a little boy who came to school bare-footed.
The posse of girls from rich families started giggling at the sight shown by their friend when Uma went on to explain:
‘No wonder he has only one shirt to wear. His father has taken another woman and his mother is just a tapper in that rubber estate of Nipuni’s father!’
Girls started poking fun at Nipuni on this. ‘What Nipuni. Give that fellow a shirt to wear to the school. What a shame. They tap your rubber trees no. Without them how do you get it done.’
The poor boys came to school bare-footed while those from affluent families wore white socks of various styles which even teachers never bothered to resist out of a secretive regard for their wealth.
The girls even scowled and expressed their antipathy if such a boy accidentally touched their bodies while running.
‘What’s really wrong with that brat, why can’t they move carefully when there are girls around’ they grumbled.
The boys also treated these girls with respect as they were rich and powerful, which was clearly evident on special occasions in the village as well.
The weddings and funerals of rich families were held with great flamboyance as a mark of wealth while even in religious activities at the temple they were at the head. The poor did not resist this as only their richer counterparts were able to afford the luxuries that wee needed for these occasions.
It was when the school term test marks were announced by the class teacher that every one was compelled to look at Saman with some interest, though reluctantly. Saman came first in the class while Nipuni got the second place and the girls began to tease her.
‘Just one stile… No… Nipu…’ they raised her collar.
‘No no. I don’t want to… this is enough for me ‘Nipuni retorted.
‘Aha… Hari hari… We know why’ the girls began to pass hints at her,
Nipuni obviously had a soft spot for Saman who was a handsome boy too, and pitied him for he was from a poor family living in their estate.
She was even often compelled to lightly safeguard their cause when little clashes arose between the two families only to be dressed down by her mother for being too ‘simple-minded’.
They were separated when Nipuni was sent to a big girls’ school in town for her ‘A’ Leels while Saman remained in the village school. It was at the university that they met again and were free to talk to each other with no one to oppose.
She was careful not to reveal all this to her parents even when one day her mother queried about it.
‘No amma…. I have no idea…’ was her terse response.
‘But they say Saman is also in Peradeniya…’ mother insisted watching her daughter’s face sharply.
‘I don’t know… May be in a different faculty. There are thousands of student in several faculties no…’ the girl tried to evade the issue tactfully.
When they met at Hanthana with many other couples Nipuni was delighted at the freedom she had unlike at school. They did not venture to the Lovers’ Lane but were content with talking to each other freely enjoying the breathtaking view from the top of the mountain.
‘Will your father allow us to get together…’ Saman put the question that was for most in his mind to his sweetheart.
‘I don’t think Saman… That’s what I’m also worried about for so long…’ Nipuni replied thoughtfully, a serious coming over her face.
‘Then what shall we do?’
‘I don’t know….I sometimes feel that they will allow us… or otherwise we will…’She hesitated.
‘No… no… Nipu We have to think about my family also. They will have to suffer if your father gets angry…’
‘No Saman… I will not allow that to happen…’ she made a strong pledge in the name of her great love for him.
When Nipuni got a teaching appointment and Saman a clerical post after passing out of university they were only able to meet by letter and also rarely by telephone for which Nipuni had little access being in school.
When several years elapsed Saman was looking for promotions after sitting his administrative exam and Nipuni was therefore compelled to pour out her heart to her mother being unable to suppress the longstanding secret. She wrote a letter to her revealing her wish to marry Saman, and also mentioned Saman’s high hopes of a better position in his cadres.
‘Has his girl gone mad’ was Hamu’s initial reaction to the news he had from his wife, and waited a few moments gazing at the sprawling paddy field beyond his coconut land, all being his property, his eyes now twinkling with displeasure.
‘Wait’ he then exploded with rage and moved fast towards his room.
‘No no…’ his wife tried to stop him knowing what he was not upto but failed.
Hamu dashed out of his room clad in his usual long-sleeved shirt and ran out of the house towards Saman’s hut.
‘Sopinond… your son is trying some mischief…’ he shouted in his stentorian voice before the thatched house and added. Be careful. If he continues this nonsense I will demolish this house and chase you away’ he threatened violently.
Saman’s mother came out with her daughter following, tightening her cloth with one hand and tidying up her hair with the other.
‘What… what is it hamumahaththaya?’
‘Tell your son immediately to stop his mischief with my daughter… or else, I’ll set fire to this house… He appears not to know who I am!’.
Saman’s younger brother Nilantha who was employed as a postman went to the police and lodged a complaint on advice from the post master. A policeman arrived in a few days to call both parties to the police station and the hamu took some instructions from a lawyer before attending the inquiry.
At the inquiry held by the OIC of the police it was Saman’s mother’s turn to answer an initial question.
‘Who is Sopihamy’
‘Who is Saman Dayasiri?’
‘That’s my elder son, Sir’
‘This Mr. Saman Dayasiri who is the new AGA in Batadeniya has informed me that he would persuade his younger brother Nilantha to withdraw the complaint and he will tackle the problem by discussion with the other party.’
Everyone cast a quizzical look at others, a look mixed with joy and dismay, while only Hamu brought his hand upto his chest as if he was feeling a pain there. As he made to lean onto a side Nilantha took hold of him and got him onto a chair, and with this gesture of friendliness the elderly man looked up at his helper with a benign smile on his face while his hand also went to pat the young man’s shoulder.
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Last Updated May 23 2013 | 10:49 pm